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, 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?