The Oncoming Hoard

I briefly wrote about my family’s predilection to being pack-rats in February 2008. As a child I don’t remember stuff being everywhere, with the exception of one “storage” room. I don’t remember the house ever being dirty, because as kids we were always vacuuming and cleaning as part of our weekly chores. But I started noticing on visits after I moved away that it was becoming both increasingly cluttered and dirty.

Thanks to Netflix, over the last few weeks I’ve watched every episode of TLC’s “Hoarding: Buried Alive”, A&E’s “Hoarders”, and Animal Planet’s “Confessions: Animal Hoarding”. Watching the shows I definitely think there’s a difference between hoarders: some can’t let go of things for some mental reason, some just seem to be lazy, and some hoarders are a combination of both.

I definitely wouldn’t say either of my parental unit’s are lazy. My father owns and runs his own business, and is always working on equipment for it or making deliveries. My mom would be the classic “homemaker”. She’s always taken care of people. Us kids growing up. Then she took care of her and my father’s parents in the last years of their lives. Now she helps watch my sibling’s children at their respective homes.

I’m sure my father would actually call himself a “collector” and I do admit he definitely does collect some specific—and very nice—things. But there’s so many of them that they’ve taken over almost every wall of their house.

Then there’s my mom. Oy! There are paper bags full of mail, magazines, and who knows what else all over the house. Things my mom keeps saying she’ll go through one day. As new things come in each day. She’s also saved all sorts of who knows what “to put in scrapbooks for us” to have. All our childhood crafts and clothing. Piles of stuff.

I’m really not looking forward to that day where I will have to go through their stuff after they die. I guess it will all be just a little bit of history repeating….

I could easily be a hoarder. And I probably have been from time to time in a small way. Mentally I have a difficult time letting objects go. The thought “I need to keep this because I could use it later” goes through my brain a lot. I’m not sure where that thought that continually lingers in the back of my brain comes from either. But it’s there, and I deal with it.

I’d say I have gotten better about it than I used to be. Or at least I hope I have. I’m not sure what the Husbear would say about it, but I’m hoping he would agree. Luckily I have him to help remind me of this when I struggle from time to time.

After re-reading the draft of this post over and over, it’s really not my intent to call my parental units out with this. Nor would I consider this “airing dirty laundry”. But for as much as I am unwillingly turning into my parental units, I don’t want this to happen to me.

The parental unit’s formal entry room, not that you could actually enter through the front door.
The parental unit’s formal living and dining room. The formal dining room was the original “storage” room that I mentioned previously.
The kitchen.
The garage in 2008.
The garage again, but in 2011. The piles have increased.
The kids’ bathroom in 2008.
The kids’ bathroom, in 2011. Again, an increase in stuff, and the bathroom is mostly unusable.
My old bedroom in 2008. Totally filled with stuff.
My brother’s bedroom.
My sister’s old bedroom.
Dust in the hallway.
My parental unit’s bathroom counter.
My mom’s dresser.

I guess I should at least be happy they haven’t hoarded animals.

Until next time...

14 thoughts on “The Oncoming Hoard

  1. Wow.

    I watch Hoarders and Hoarding: Buried Alive. These photos are amazing. I’m kind of a purger myself. I grew up with my family in a 2 bedroom apartment in Manhattan. I didn’t have my own bedroom, space was very limited, my family always kept things very clean and very organized. The place was small

    Now, my husband (I’m a newlywed) and I have a small house and I’m constantly purging. I just don’t want to have anything we don’t really need. I like the feeling of the house being clean and organized and comfortable.

    I think you’re right about the different kinds of people on Hoarders. From what I understand part of the definition of being a hoarder is the lack of distinction between garbage and things with value. And yes, there are episodes where the person knows and understands what’s garbage, but has allowed the hoard to accumulate for other reasons like emotional problems or like you said, laziness. Some of the people you wind up really rooting for, and hoping the clean up is successful and they get the help they need.

    That’s a sad thought, about having to go through the family house after your parents have passed. I’m sorry, I’m sure that wasn’t an easy thing to think about.


  2. I’ve seen homes like this. Much worse in fact. When the old man across the street from us in Dayton died, his sons showed up and started cleaning out the house. They spent an entire week there throwing stuff out. They filled SIX of those huge driveway-length dumpsters. Every day Waste Mgmt picked up an over-stuffed dumpster and dropped off a new one. I couldn’t believe so much rubbish could fit in one tiny house. I fear someday you may have to do the same with your parental unit’s house. Ugh.

  3. “I might need this someday” and “this could come in handy later” are my culprits. My maternal grandmother was put into an orphanage at a young age when her father died; my paternal grandmother raised three kids and an alcoholic husband on absolutely nothing in the Great Depression. Hoarding for later is an energetic template that is in our families that gets asserted during tough times.

    I lived in a tiny 375 sq. ft. house for several years and had to come to terms with my own hoarding instincts: not pretty. And in such a teeny space it shows up very quickly. I still have trouble with the “do I really need this?” question.

    Good luck :-/

  4. I’ve been in a few houses that were cluttered in much the same way over the years. I have that “I might use it again” instinct that I constantly have to fight. Every few years we rent a dumpster and throw a bunch of crap out. We’ll probably do that again next spring. Most of the my collection of stuff (mostly old electronics) is confined to one room in the basement.

  5. I’ve watch all of the Hoarders on A & E. I threaten to call them when my partner wants to keep ANOTHER empty cardboard box. There is a corner in the basement that is a mountain of boxes. Makes me crazy. I installed shelving and took most everything off the floor. It was not pretty when he go home. I “touched” his things. Mind you, when I moved in, I had a small apartment’s worth of furniture, and the house we live in is about 2800 sq ft. and it was completely furnished. Most of my things that couldn’t blend in…went into the walk up attic. We kept things because we were going to have a yard sale (we call them tag sales here). It’s been 7 years, no yard sale. He will not get rid of anything. I went through my things and got a card load to bring to Good Will. And threw out 5 large bags of old clothes. He had clothes from the early 80’s on. Nothing fits him, but he can get rid of them. Two closet full of clothes either too small or out of style. He put the clothes he wears on top of dresser and on furniture in his office. There is not a surface that does have something on it. The kitchen is clean and counters are clear, but for the appliance that we use. We have a “gift” closet that has shelves and doors that shut, it is packed with things he might give to people. He does sometime, enough to justify the gift closet. We are thinking about down sizing. But what stops us, is that he can bear to think about moving all the stuff or selling off what we don’t need.
    I have tried to do something about it, but a this point, it’s not worth the aggravation.
    Your parent’s place looks like A&E Hoarders Light. It’s getting there but still some what livable. The bathroom and kitchen are a concern. The bedrooms that belong to you kids….since no one lives in them. The are like storage. Depending on the level of honest communication that can take place. I think you are going to have a mess on your hands one day.
    Could showing them the 2008 vs 2011 pictures have an effect? If not from you then one of the siblings?

  6. Erik, I too bought 3 seasons of Hoarders to watch and try to understand my mother’s hoarding habit. My parent’s house looks identical to your parents. My grandfather was a hoarder, but it was regulated to the barn. One of his sisters was a hoarder with piles of papers and small paths in the house to walk through. Have you noticed that most of the hoarders are moms? My mom’s 2 sisters are also hoarders. To me it seems that our parent’s generation is the even worse than the generation before. I try to understand my mom’s behavoir by talking to her. She has a total block when it comes to understanding her house is full and there is no room for anything else. If there is a “deal” or a free sign she has to pick it up and bring it home. I thought I would be able to help her clean up her house but after watching Hoarders I soon realized that very few hoarding addicts actually recover from their illness.

  7. My father was like that- when we moved from one farm to another there was an enormous truck load of scrap wood “we might use this some day.” That was unloaded and rotted in place for the next 17 years. When we finally moved my parents out he sat and sobbed because we were throwing out boxes of old magazines that had sat in the attic for the whole time.

    Curious to know what your siblings think of your parent’s behavior.

  8. I love Hoarders because it’s bumps up my self esteem. Because, no matter how fucked your life is, theirs is worse. Oh and hate to break it to you, your parental units are hoarders.

  9. From the pics I’d say you they have a problem that needs addressing. It’s not just the stuff but that the floor space is disappearing and things are getting dirty. It looks like the kitchen and bathroom are not far from loosing their functionality. If there were a fire or a plumbing repair needed, things could go down hill really fast.

    Also, asking/working with them to clean up a bit could determine if they really have a hoarding problem or if the housekeeping is becoming too much. If it is a hoarding problem, addressing it earlier would make it easier treat.

    As for me, I’m a virgo and am very, very neat but I still manage to accumulate things. Moving too frequently helps keep the clutter down.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck.

  10. Well at least you are aware of your family history and can do something about it. Most hoarders think that’s just the way things are and that it’s normal.

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