Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hoarding = get help

hoard·ing1 [hawr-ding, hohr-] –noun
1. the act of a person who hoards.
2. hoardings, things that are hoarded.

There is a lot of talk in the media today about hoarding. Oprah did an episode on it the other day, which I had to have my mom in Dallas Tivo for me, and more and more articles are on the net about it. One of my favorite websites Unclutterer mentions an article where San Francisco how has opened the Institute of Hoarding and Cluttering that is a "center for information, training, education, policy and dissemination of research on compulsive hoarding and cluttering."

If you've never seen hoarding first hand, it is VERY depressing, disgusting, emotionally exhausting, disappointing, etc.; there really is such a mix of emotions that goes on with it. My grandma (on my Mom's side) is a complusive hoarder, she never got to the point where a lot of individuals get to where you are climbing over piles of junk, but where every storage area is filled, shelves are overstocked, rooms are crowded, unnecessary JUNK she feels that is useful. She has three homes in three different states (Illinois, Texas, and Arizona) that are filled with junk, that she swears is valuable.

We are fortunate enough that she is at that stage in her life that we are able to control what goes in and out. My grandpa died almost 2 years ago from a stroke and unfortunately my family was in the process of moving them from Illinois to Texas, right next door from my parents, right behind my uncles' house. After Baba died my grandma flew me from England to Illinois to stay with her for a week since no one else could and she can't be left alone. (She's going to be 90 this year and is very fragile and can't take care of herself anymore). So I was left to deal with making sure she didn't fall, organize her belongings, and take her around town (she refused to let me drive and almost killed us three times). After the week was over, my parents and my uncle came to Illinois to essentially rescue me and take my grandma to her new home in Dallas.

Some examples of what we have had to deal with:
  • Napkin collection. Yes, a NAPKIN collection. She has THOUSANDS of napkins in unendless piles. Napkins from the 60s, fast food restaurants, from every occassion, you name it, she has it. She REFUSES to throw them away and if you do happen to get them in the trash without her knowledge, she goes through and picks them out.
  • Hospital soup/coffee mugs. You know, those large mugs that can be used for a bowl of soup or extra large cup of coffee. When my grandfather was in the hospital my grandma would take every mug that was given to him; she has about 15 - 20 in her cupboard at home that have never been used, she doesn't drink coffee.
  • I found RealLemon juice in her basement. This was from 1975. An unopened, extremely large GLASS bottle that she refused to let me throw away. I finally had to hide it in the room I was staying in and give it to my family when they came and helped..without her knowledge.
  • Dirty tinfoil and plastic bags she saved. They were sticky and disgusting and we had to hold her back while she was bawling her eyes out saying that it was useful and she wanted to keep it.
  • Old spices that are in tins. If spices are in tins, according to McCormick, they are at least 15 years old. Old food as well in cans, boxes, etc. Nope, they're still good according to her, can't toss them out. We used to be very cautious about what we ate at their house, most of the time we always made sure we ate before we arrived.
  • On the way out the door to take her to Dallas, my dad had to PRY her fingers off the fridge because she didn't want a little food to go waste. About 3 of us had to grab her kicking and screaming because of the food.

I could continue, but it makes my brain hurt. Complusive hoarding is a SERIOUS issue. Why did my grandma continue to clutter her homes? Why did she go to garage sales all the time and buy unnecessary items? She had an empty nest in the early 1970s when their children moved out, what was the reasoning behind it all and why did Baba let it continue?

To let you know, it is out of control and I do not envy my parents, aunt, and uncle when she finally passes away. They will have 3 houses full of stuff to deal with and with most of it being junk they will probably rent a few skips to toss the trash.

If you know someone who is a hoarder, get them help. They have serious issues that need to be dealt with, otherwise it will control their lives. I've seen it firsthand and knowing that my grandma values her possessions over our family is a very sad thing.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Wow dude, you never told me those things!! I knew she valued her stuff over you guys but I never knew she was that bad with things. That dirty tinfoil and bag thing was gross dude! How do people become like this? Seriously I would like to know. I want to make sure that I don't become anything like that! Weird article this time dude, but very interesting. It made me want to look it up more. Later, Amy