Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Good News!

They are putting the house on the market. They've met with a realtor, pictures happening today I believe, house on market next Tuesday. This is the aggressive plan, maybe not even wholly unrealistic.

I went over a couple evenings last week, helped move boxes down to a 'staging' area in the garage. Sunday was yard work, mulching, painting the fence. Tonight probably more boxes. My mom had been using the professional organizers too, an extra set of hands, so that's great. I guess it's at a point where the remaining stuff can be stowed out of sight (i.e. in garage) while the dwelling area is showcased. Hurrah!!!

Also no need to sign the home equity note.

I'm unfortunately starting to get sick I think. I'm so so so tired. But it's really going somewhere. I think it really might just happen... don't want to get my hopes up tooooo much, but it's looking good, realtor says it's actually not too bad a time to sell even.

Haha... the gif looks slightly ridiculous with that border around it. Ah well.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I had offered to lend my dad some money if they ended up in a tight spot (with the rule of thumb in mind that you shouldn't lend more than you'd be willing to give). I had looked through my budget and decided an amount that I'd be comfortable never getting back from them. But they didn't end up needing it when we first had the conversation.

The house is now mostly in a state to sell, but there is a home equity note to sign. Earlier this week, he asked me to sign for a portion of it, a low percentage, which I wouldn't even have to pay if the house sells, but if the house doesn't sell, the amount I'd be responsible for is higher than the amount I had initially thought of loaning them (or potentially giving them if they are unable to pay back ever). I'm still not sure I fully understand the situation. I will see my dad this weekend and hopefully clarify exactly what this entails. Maybe talk to my friend who is a lawyer. I'm of course not going to be signing stuff blindly.

I kind of want to say that I will agree to it IF Mom agrees to go to therapy, but that seems pretty manipulative. I don't know. I don't really have much experience with this type of decision. I'm mostly just working through it here. Not agreeing to anything.

Other tough news: I have gotten a letter from my employer about some mistakes I made last week, that this is a problem, that I am on probation until the end of the year. Serious stuff. As soon as I knew about the mistakes I immediately worked to correct them and make sure that sort of thing never happens again. But it is true, even beyond that incident, I am distracted. I know that I cannot blame this on anyone or anything else.

A part of me wants to be so selfish and say FINE THEN I QUIT...

But I need the money. I need to feel secure financially. Plus I'm a fighter. I'm a stubborn mo*******king fighter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Funny Dream

I had a dream I was some kind of fugitive. I had to grab some provisions quickly and get outta town.

I stopped by my parents’ to get some supplies and they were going to give me a lift. My mom kept bringing out items that I might need. I was like AHHH NO I’ve got pretty much everything I need, plus it’s going to be super suspicious, not to mention HEAVY, if I am carrying around all these bags with this stuff – I have to leave, I have to leave, they are coming. She said, no it will be fine, it will be fine, brought out winter gloves, scarves, some food, etc.

My heart was racing.

Then I looked out the front window and saw two dark colored government vans pull in front of the house. They are here! I say. What should I do? A thought occurred to me at the same time my mom spoke it, go out the back door.

So I did, with all of the stuff she had convinced me to bring, kind of already knowing they’d be able to overtake me quickly, since they’d see all the remaining supplies inside, since I’d be on foot, since there’d be no way for my parents to drive me anywhere if they were talking to those government people.

I woke up, very relieved, almost laughing that it was a dream.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Hung out Friday with a good friend of mine from growing up (she has known me since first grade - over 20 years!). I've talked to her a bit about the hoarding situation, because I've known her so long, I trust her, she's a psychologist and also has really really reasonable standards of appropriate boundaries or behavior. At one point though I recounted a story from when I was maybe 20.

So for almost as long as I can remember either the kitchen or dining room table has been unusable. We would either eat all our meals on the kitchen table or all of the meals on the dining room table, depending which was clean. 
So I have this recollection, thinking, I'm going to do something awesome for Mom, she's always complaining about how the house is such a mess. I will clean off the kitchen table so we can eat on it again. She was away helping as a cook at this church youth camp for teenage girls - I think at least two of my sisters were attending. Anyway I spent probably half a day tossing the expired coupons and the junk mail, compiling anything that looked important into a small stack. I wiped down the table, put out a tablecloth, possibly even picked some flowers from the yard to make it all pretty for when my mom and the girls arrived home. I was imagining her being so happy and pleased that we would be able to use the table again, that it looked so nice, that I had spent time to do something kind for her. 
I was so wrong. She returned from camp with a bunch of extra (non-perishable) food from the camp's industrial-size kitchen, a ton of craft supplies from the craft barn, and other supplies that were going to get thrown away. They all ended up on the kitchen table and stayed there for months, maybe even years... 
Pretty much within minutes of arriving home, she had returned the table to an unusable state. I have to say I was a little bit heartbroken. 
This of course is before I realized that there was something significant going on in her mind that was making her like this and making the house like this. I somehow thought it was our kids' fault for being so messy, for not helping enough with the cleaning. If only we could be better then things would be better... yes, I believed it on some level, took it to heart.

And you know what, maybe I still feel that way. Those little "if only"s. If only I can figure out the right way to help Mom, then everything will be okay. I just need to learn to let it go. Slowly I'm learning to let it go.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Got to Admit It's Getting Better

WOW it went a lot better last night.

Well, we probably only went through about like a quarter of the clothing. There’s still a lot to do. But we did get rid of 3.5 trash bags worth of clothes. And there were only a couple, very small meltdowns. I think we were able to stay positive for the most part. The focus was more on being able to use four of the dresser drawers again (YAY), getting rid of the “fat” clothes (my mom has lost a ton of weight recently and fits into stuff she used to not be able to), or the cute outfits she will be able to wear – we had a little bit of a fashion show, modeling the outfits for my sister and me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Here's an article I came across from Social Work Today which goes into the psychology a bit, the current research (emphasis added by me):
Hoarding treatment begins with a person acknowledging the underlying problems that fuel hoarding behavior. The reasons for hoarding differ depending on the person, and treatment is challenging because people who hoard often do not realize their behavior is a problem or they are socially isolated and ashamed due to the condition of their home. Sometimes, they resist treatment because they think it will involve simply clearing out the clutter.

Just cleaning out the stuff does not address the underlying psychological issues,” Shulman says. “It’s not a clutter problem; it’s a perception/thinking problem.”
According to Steketee, no single condition causes hoarding. Contributing factors or stressors may include the following:
  • being raised in a chaotic home or one with confusing family context, or moving frequently;
  • cognitive processing issues that affect decision making and problem solving;
  • attention-deficit disorder;
  • anxiety and/or depression;
  • excessive guilt about waste; and
  • genetics and family history because hoarding behavior runs in families.

Hoarding may induce feelings of safety and security and/or reinforce identity,” adds Steketee.

The exact causes of hoarding are still uncertain, and research on the physiology and psychology of hoarding is ongoing. Geneticists are working to identify genetic loci related to hoarding behavior, says Steketee. An imaging study found that cerebral blood flow in a patient with OCD and severe hoarding exhibited a certain pattern during the most severe hoarding symptoms, and the pattern changed when the patient’s hoarding behaviors improved (Ohtsuchi, Matsuo, Akimoto, & Watanabe, 2010). A review of epidemiological, neurobiological, and treatment studies concluded that compulsive hoarding may be a discrete disorder with its own diagnostic criteria (Pertusa et al., 2010).

I kind of hate that word "hoarding" - sounds so awful and messy and sickening. I think of that first step, about acknowledging the underlying problems, but honestly, who would ever want to admit to having that?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Feeling a Bit Better Now

Whenever I spend time with my mom and it's particularly frustrating, I always find myself with this very strong urge or almost compulsion to CLEAN, to THROW THINGS AWAY, to MAKE STUFF with my craft supplies. So, this past weekend I cleaned the whole apartment, got rid of a bunch of stuff, made a pillow cover, cleaned again (after hosting a Sunday brunch)... it feels so good to do that kind of thing, to live in my own space and to make it how I like it. Maybe it's also a little bit proving to myself that I don't have to be like my mom, afraid to part with stuff, afraid to use things, afraid to make creative messes - ironically... Also to prove that I can train myself to have a healthy relationship to my possessions and my own dwelling.

Even if there doesn't seem to be much progress with my mom, there is progress with ME, and there can always be progress with me, if I'm willing and able to put in the effort.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I am annoyed and frustrated. Nothing is going to be better. Everything is so hard. I try to be calm and emotionally detached from the situation, but how can you work hard at something without getting attached to it? I don't want my parents to have to be homeless. I don't want them to have no money and nowhere to live. I want my little sister to get a chance at life.


We spent like 2 hours yesterday going through tons and tons of CHEAP JEWELRY. Got rid of like half of it. It doesn't matter to her if she wears it or not, matters if she'd LIKE to wear it or could IMAGINE wearing it. She just wants to keep everything, has a shirt that goes perfectly with those earrings, needs some small fake pearls and some large fake pearls. Let's not get into clothes. She had "sorted through" some of the clothes that she wanted to keep. I asked if she wears them and she said yes she does. Fine. I noticed a brightly patterned dress and said "WOW I've never seen you wear that one" (not even meant as a cross examination, just I was surprised that she had it and wore it), and she said "well I haven't worn that one YET" she was moving stuff around from pile to pile kind of distractedly, I just decided to let the matter drop. Clothes are going to require at least one other support person when we go through it.

So much crying... repressed anger and sadness that she won't share except when it tumbles out. I can't be sympathetic the way I'd like to be because I have to focus on the task at hand or else we won't get anything done. What a mess.

I'm not a therapist. I'm still figuring out how to deal with stuff in my own life for goodness sake. It's not like you taught me how to deal with anything like that MOM.

I'm so annoyed I'm so frustrated. Life is so dumb. Everything is so dumb.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

COH Porn

When I have had a rough "session" with my mom or am feeling bummed out or frustrated about the situation I go to realsimple.com, particularly their section on organizing. They have some helpful information, but a lot of the time I just go to see the calm, pretty pictures.

I know it's not reality. I just like it.

This is actually a helpful one. Supplies you need in the cleaning cabinet: rubber gloves, bucket, distilled white vinegar, disinfectant, mild abrasive, microfiber cloths, sponges disposable wipes, and all-purpose cleaner in a scent you love. Who knew it could be so simple?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mid-August Update

Craft giveaway went ok. We got rid of probably 1/3 of the craft supplies, which is honestly more than I thought we would. There were a lot of really happy ladies with armfuls of stamps, paper, sewing supplies, whatnots. So that was nice. There’s still a bunch left though. A couple of the ladies from church wanted to host a yardsale to try to get some money. That’s fine to me if they do it, but I decided I don’t need to help out with that. I will focus on the main goal: getting the house cleaned out.

Really nice of those ladies though, huh? My mom managed to pull through the experience without breaking down, remarkable grace and poise. I should tell her that.

The first floor is about 70% cleared out. It’s amazing. We were able to vacuum in the family/TV room for the first time in probably a 5-10 years.

I don’t know what will happen after this move is over. I really REALLY want her to start seeing someone, a professional, but I just don’t know how to convince them. It’s horrible to think this way, but I just don’t want to go through everything when my parents die. 

Anyway I went hiking with some friends this weekend, a 9-mile, 4-peak loop in NH. Exhausting but so beautiful. Things like that keep you sane, grounded, happy about the world and life, you know?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


It is my mom's birthday Sunday, Bubber reminded me.

I'm being mean but I kinda don't even want to do anything for her. Or for some reason I just think What's the point? Maybe what is the point in celebrating her if she doesn't celebrate herself?

Craft Giveaway

She is crying so much over this. At least so frequently. Pretty much every time I talk to her she cries at least once. I don't understand why it is so hard for her. Kinda starts to drag me down too.

But we just have to keep moving forward.One foot in front of the other.

Going over tonight to sort through the last few things hopefully and then heading over to the church tomorrow after work to help set the stuff up and probably to help man the tables. Not really sure how it's gonna work. I want to give a prize to the person who takes the most stuff or something haha. Or a huge hug.

Friday, July 22, 2011


I have a tag in my gmail for "hoarding" and one in my google docs as well. Haha. That is funny. I sometimes don't realize things are weird and then I take a step back and nope, it's pretty effing weird.

We have been going through the scrapbooking supplies. It's so hard, somehow. I can of course see that it's more than she uses, more than she'll ever need, it's piled up, crammed in there in a totally non-organized manner, spilling onto the floor, she can't use it like that, yet she still feels like each item is so important. Anyway though we are paring the collection down to about 1/8th the size, hopefully a more manageable amount, and having a give-away for the ladies at church, because they are all over that craft stuff.

I told her once they move into the new place I'd have the professional organizer come and help make a little craft area that's nice and useable. 

Sometimes I feel like the whole thing is a farce, some elaborate story we’re telling ourselves. We’ll never get to the bottom of it. They’ll never sell the house. There will never be a new house. But no, there is progress, things are looking better. I think the craft supplies are the last big obstacle. Thank God for my sisters. Really.

Had a nice trip to Cape Cod last week. I'm making sure I am enjoying my summer, too. Life is here, it's now, it's to enjoy, even when you're dealing with crazy shit. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Card I made to go with the present.

Today was my roommate's fiancée's bridal shower. A very lovely, pleasant, delightful event. Lovely, pleasant, delightful food. Lovely, pleasant, delightful people. Totally normal and uneventful. In a good way.

I got home from it and, instead of enjoying a nice glass of white wine with her and her family, crept into my bed and cried softly to myself until I started to hiccup and had to tell myself to stop acting like a baby. Oh god what a day. I can't remember the last time I cried like that. But maybe I needed it...

This morning Bubs and I were supposed to go through some of the "less emotional" areas, list out the various categories of items, and specify what the organizers were to do with those items when they come next week.

Of course there is no such thing as a "less emotional" area. Silly us.

I flipped out on my mother a little bit about halfway through the morning. I can't remember what set me off - probably my mother crying over cloth napkins and place mats we uncovered that she hadn't seen or used in 25 years. It is frustrating when it takes half an hour to decide whether or not to keep the dance costumes that no longer fit any of the girls who are now women who don't want them themselves. It is annoying when even the dumbest things, like empty cardboard boxes, bubble wrap, plastic containers, etc are being saved in massive quantities for potential uses which will likely not be warranted.

Ok I do remember what it was.

I started putting stuff back into the linen closet after we had sorted it because the knee-high piles were preventing people from safely using the hall to the bedrooms. On her way upstairs with Bubs to start going through some stuff up there, my mom called down, saying it was a waste of effort to put it back into the closet if we were just going to be paying someone to take it back out. I said it was just better to put it away, got kind of annoyed, but stopped doing it. She went upstairs and I could hear her crying, that sad, sickening sound of my own mother's agony over things that most grown adults don't think twice about.

I shouted something like "YOU CAN'T EVEN WALK THROUGH THE HALLWAY LIKE THIS." Knowing I was going to say even more hurtful things, I removed myself from the situation, but like the mature woman I am, made sure to close the front door a little extra hard. So everyone would know I was MAD.

Down the steps I went, past my dad who was stirring up puffs of dandelion seeds with the lawnmower, fuming my way up the street. I heard the mower engine stop. Heard the car starting up. I kept going. I got halfway up the hill and found a low wall on our neighbor's property, along with a single yellow dandelion, which I plucked from their yard and began to dismantle. I was sitting on the wall stewing when my dad pulled up a few moments later... still wearing his lawn mowing gear: face mask and protective earphones, curly white hairs poking out from his arm braces. Everything okay? he asks.

Yeah I say, looking up for only a second, because my eyes are burning. I didn't want to say anything mean. 

I continue to mash at the dandelion.

Thanks for doing this, he says. Earphones, face mask still on.

I nod slightly, don't look up, keep mutilating the yellow flower in my hand.

After a pause, I'm going to go back to mowing the lawn now. He rolls up the window and I hear the engine fade away. He drives around the block and I finish the flower off by pinching its head with a pop, lie back in that pillowy grass thinking UGHHHHHHHHH to myself. Somebody is using a leaf blower just out of sight. Two neighbors are having a friendly chat. I hear the car door open and close in our driveway again. The lawnmower starts up.

I go back into the house, I apologize, we finish going through the rest of the rooms...

My mom drops me off at the train station with the last box of my own stuff I will ever remove from my family's home: high school and college diplomas, a couple pieces of my own artwork, some field hockey trophies. I remember that I have to get a gift for the shower. Stop by Crate and Barrel. The only thing on the registry that seemed appropriate was a spice rack, which apparently weighs the same amount as the box of memorabilia I'm carrying (i.e. quite a bit).

I walk half a mile along the sidewalk toward my apartment, with what is apparently some sort of anguished grimace on my face, because, when I take a break to rest the box and bag on a brick wall, a kindly-looking gentleman says Yes, good, you look like you need that, you should rest there for twenty minutes (sympathetic chuckle).

No it's ok I'm only a block from my house, I gesture up the street.

He smiles and continues past me, then hesitates, You're going up the street this way? Would you like to put that stuff in the back of my station wagon? he asks.

I pause, realize that yes yes I would, I don't care what I have learned about strangers, I don't think I can carry it any further. So I tell him I would like that, if he is headed that way anyway.

A feeble black dacschund barks twice at me from a towel on the front seat. Don't mind him. He's seventeen years old and can't see strangers. The man gathers the towel and dog onto his lap and lets me into the passenger seat. We drive the one block - not very far, in a car, apparently. His name is Robert. We chat a bit, he jokes that the station wagon makes him very popular among friends with things to carry. I laugh a bit. Mention we are thinking of having a block party, wouldn't that be nice?

He helps me unload the stuff, I thank him. He drives off with the little doggie.

I take advil and a long hot shower, blow dry my hair, wrap the present, make a little card...


So. After the party, fiancée's family - mom and grandma - and my roommate and his brother are in the other room. I can hear them laughing and chattering. So pleasant. No ugly piles of weird useless stuff. No mothers sobbing over eleven used field hockey sticks that none of her girls actually played with which she now must part with.

I am jealous and sad. Why can't my family be normal? I wonder. I think of how I have behaved earlier this morning. Ashamed. How much I know my parents love me. I feel super guilty thinking that, wishing they could be different. But I am jealous of how everything in a lot of other people's lives seems so effortless, how they don't have such ridiculous things to have to deal with, how they know all the ways to behave in different situations because they had normal adults around them to model that behavior for them. I envy this nice normal family in my living room, I am tired, I feel lost, a lot alone, like there is nobody but me to keep the pieces together.

I cry and cry and cry. I can't seem to stop!

I remember letters I came across another time I brought a box home from my parents'. I had gone to sleep-away camp for one week in the early spring of fifth grade. My entire family wrote to me.

I love you so much, my dad writes, after describing the growth he'd noticed in the various areas of my life - dance, basketball, faith/spirituality. I'll cherish your childhood memories. I look forward to the next stage of your life. Love, Dad. 

My mom's letters read more like a play-by-play of every moment of the day. Now it's Monday morning (11:00 AM) and we are waiting at the pharmacy for a prescription for an antibiotic for [Nipper] - one ear has an infection (again) and she will need to take a different medication for 10 days. This explains somewhat how cranky she's been the last few days... etc etc etc............. I hope the bus ride was fun. Is there much snow? How are the meals? Is the bunk comfy? I love you - we love you. Have fun. Stay warm. Love, Mom. 

The letters from the other kids reflect their age and level of fine motor skill development. There is an entire page of scribbles which is apparently a portrait Nipper drew of herself "eating butter." She used to pull a chair over and sneak up onto the counter top to eat the butter straight from the dish. We'd find little tiny finger-shaped swipes out of the softened stick of butter. No joke.

Nipper eating butter..

Ok I don't hate my family. Just frustrated.

Let's not fool ourselves. There's no such thing as "normal." But there is "healthy," and we're all trying our damndest to get there.

Yep. We are.