When I watched Hoarders for the first time a few weeks ago, I could really identify with one thing that most of the hoarders had in common. Fear and anxiety struck most of them at the mere thought that someone would be going through their things and possibly getting rid of something they weren't ready to let go yet. I'm not exactly sure what the root cause is of this fear. I do know what it feels like, though.
I don't know that I could ever have a television show come into my house and expose me like those on the show have done. I also don't think I could clean the house and garage out in just two days, if someone were to show up and help me. I think I used to resist the thought of anyone helping me before, because I was afraid that they would throw something out that I truly did want or need.
I know. I know. That sums up what a hoarder is in a nutshell.
But I also know I have boxes upon boxes of paperwork that I need to go through. At this point, I'll only be saving paperwork that proves our youngest ran out of oxygen, birth certificates, and letters that mean a lot to me. However, it's all mixed in with bills that can be shredded, letters from people I haven't been in touch with in years and years, and things that I really don't need. I will have to sort through each box myself, though, because nobody else knows what I will be wanting to keep.
I've got the sorting thing down pretty well for the most part. I'm able to make decisions much more quickly than I ever have, and I'm making good progress on paperwork I've gotten through so far. I am hoping that continues, but we may have problems with our daughter's paperwork. Especially with our middle daughter who is developmentally delayed.
The last couple of weeks, she's been very needy. She doesn't typically whine, but lately it's plagued her speech. We could tell she'd been stressed, but we didn't put two and two together until we got ready to go shopping yesterday. Let me back up a bit...
From the time that she was tiny, she has LOVED paperwork! She would write a little something on a piece of paper and pile it up. She was only 2 when she, her older sister and I were staying with my parents when my husband was deployed. She made 'lists' of all sorts at my folks' house. She'd stack them up on the piano stool very carefully and grin from ear to ear with the most infectious grin you can imagine! She was SO proud of herself! Within days, the pile was several inches tall. By the time we left, because my husband had returned, the pile was a good 2 feet tall, even though Mom and I culled papers from the stack from time to time.
When she was about 4, my husband came home from work one night after everyone was in bed. There our middle daughter sat in the middle of the living room leaned up against a 5' tall, 5' wide pile of her things. Her bedroom was empty except for the bed and the dresser. She had taken every piece of clothing out of the closet and out of the dresser drawers. She'd stripped every bit of bedding off the bed. She'd taken every picture, shelf and nic nac off the wall, and she'd brought all of it and every toy she had in her bedroom and piled it in a heap in the middle of the living room floor. She even took the curtains off her windows and brought them into the living room. When my husband came in, he said she looked like Little Boy Blue fast asleep against the haystack, but she was grinning from ear to ear, once again very proud of her accomplishments and enjoying a Barney movie that she'd fired up.
I wish I could say that things have gotten better with her "piling", as we've always called it. It stresses her out to no end to get rid of things. She currently writes my husband several lists every single day of things she wants him to pick up on the way home from work. Every one of these lists has "COO" written with a circle drawn around it. She says it says, "Crunch", as in Capt'n Crunch. Lately, she's been adding her version of a "K" to the end of the of the "COO", because she wants him to buy cookies.
About once a month or so, he'll grab some "Crunch" for the kids or pick up some cookies, but it doesn't happen often. Still, she reminds him that she wants him to with several lists each day. It makes her feel so good that he has her lists, that he accepts them all. She is always so relieved when he remembers to take her lists when he leaves for work, and she's always distressed, if he forgets one. She always has a smile on her face when she tucks a list into his pocket or his lunchbox and walks away with a smile on her face - proud of herself that she got her point across.
I haven't been driving the car much this winter. I've been sick, and I haven't gone many places, so my husband has been running the errands. He let the trash build up a bit in the car, and he had enlisted our middle daughter's help in cleaning it out a bit before we went shopping yesterday. By the time I got out there with our youngest, the car was all but clean. However, there was still a little trash on the floor in the front seat. She was dutifully cleaning it up while stuffing the lists she'd given her dad, (and he'd left in the car), in her pocket.
When I suggested that they weren't needed anymore, she started to panic. She started to whine. She started saying, "No!" We were able to convince her that the were no longer needed by telling her that they were old lists that her dad had already used, and she'd already gotten the things she'd written on them.
It wasn't until yesterday that I really "got" that she's a hoarder. We knew that she piled. We knew that she collected. But we hadn't really considered that she dealt with getting rid of things like a hoarder does until yesterday.
Put into perspective, the last several weeks makes so much sense! Even though I'm ready to de-hoard and dealing with the changes well, she's not. I'll have to be careful and respect her feelings, so she doesn't get overwhelmed with all that's going on. I will do what I can to encourage her make her own decisions as to what to keep and what to purge. I'm hoping that by doing things one box at a time, that it won't be too sudden for her, and she'll possibly work through a few things herself.
This clutter didn't happen overnight. The process of getting rid of it won't be very quick either, but it will be worth it, and it will happen.
Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.
You can read the start of my journey here.