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Entries in compulsive hoarding (1)

Thursday
Mar272008

Foolishness & Mayhem

Somehow, I got addicted to Clean House on the Style network.

The show goes to houses owned by “Clutter Bugs” and cleans them out… making them low-budget showpieces with the money they make from the yard sale of many of their belongings. (The show matches the money made at the yard sale up to $1000. Plus, they paint and organize for free. They often “gift” the people who struggle with parting from their belongings.

Good god, do these people know what they look like on tv? Do they realize how deep their illness is? Many times, the homeowners and family members are downright compulsive hoarders, not clutter bugs.

The definition of a compulsive hoarder:

Compulsive hoarding (or pathological hoarding) is extreme hoarding behavior in humans. It involves the collection and/or failure to discard large numbers of objects even when their storage causes significant clutter and impairment to basic living activities such as moving around the house, cooking, cleaning, showering or sleeping.

Do they know how foolish they look keeping so much CRAP in their houses? Do they look at the tv show and think, “Egads, I am one sick puppy!” I have never heard so many adults whine over the smallest, ugliest, oldest things ever! They cling to tattered tee shirts, high school underwear, broken tools, baby toys when there’re no kids in the house… and the SHOES! My god, how can people have so many shoes?!

One woman “only” had 100 pairs of shoes. She was much better than her mom who had 300 pairs! She said her 8-year old daughter didn’t have her shoe fetish; she only owned 45 pairs.

People bring Clean House into their homes and then cry over their wanting to sell off their broken, old, collectible or multiple items. And I mean cry!

The show is campy as heck and some of the situations seem quite contrived, but in watching their outtakes, they aren’t as fake as I originally thought!

Parts of the show are sad, sad, sad because people cling to their dead loved ones’ belongings. Does that make their loved one proud? That after they die, their family members turn to pigs? Wouldn’t that loved one be happier if they got rid of the trash, old clothes… THINGS… and gave them to people who could benefit from the things? I’ve played out what I would do if my kids were gone… or Sarah. And I know I would keep some things as memories, but they would all be pissed at me if I stopped my life and never moved beyond the moment of their deaths. I kept several pieces of the kids' clothes from when they were little, but I wanted to make a quilt out of them. Meggie took the box home on the last trip here, saying she would get the quilt made.

I’m sure that at least part of the issue of not letting go of loved ones that have passed or are gone in our lives (including ex'es) comes from our society not teaching the skills of the mourning process. Dying is more hidden than birth used to be before television invaded the space. (It was surely seen as more normal and typical when we lived in tribes and saw birth and death as a regular part of the cycle of life. We don’t have that anymore.)

There’s nothing worse than an ex-smoker.

I used to “collect” (cough cough) books. I bought new and used books like I was stocking a library. I collected cookbooks – loving old cookbooks! I collected birth books and kids’ books. I have a phenomenal collection of vintage lesbian books (from the 60’s and 70’s) that were given to me by another bibliophile. I couldn’t get rid of books for anything. And then, when I had over 3000, my house was a hot mess and it was time to start purging. I could only let them go if I found them good homes; used bookstores were not an option. Once I started giving them away, I began to feel less clingy. Over the years, I have hoarded, then purged thousands of books. I am in a purging place.

I gave away all but the oldest midwifery/nursing texts to a bibliophile former client who wants to be a midwife in the distant future, took the vintage cookbooks to the used bookstore where the owners drooled over the books. I knew they would be well-loved. My son-out-law is going to sell the dyke books on eBay for me.

And then there’s Disney.

When I gathered all my own Disney paraphernalia (memorabilia!) together, it filled a large plastic box thingie. Hopefully, it’s being sold on eBay as we speak. Dozens of pins and buttons, watches… do I have watches! I have 6 for sale and at least 10 more that I wore within an inch of their lives. While that certainly isn’t a huge collection, how many watches does one wrist need?

I also have a pretty big collection of earrings, though I’ve given some to Aimee. I also purge those now, whereas I used to keep every pair, no matter what they looked like or if they’d lost their match. Why? I don’t know.

One of the things hoarders seem to say a lot is, “I want to keep it in case I need it in the future,” but it seems many are also compulsive shoppers and could buy what they need when they need it! One girl kept every piece of homework she’d had since junior high. She was in college! She said she might need those papers she wrote, use the references. But, for goodness sake, there’s the Internet! It isn’t like we have to schlep to the library anymore; at least for most mundane papers.

There are hoarders in my life. Family members have family members whose houses are so filled with eBay items they can’t even pee without moving the tv off the toilet. That is just so sad. Mostly because they can’t even see anything wrong with it.

I wonder if hoarding is a throw-back to an earlier time when it was imperative to grab and keep food for our survival. Instead of hoarding food, “things” get hoarded… in case it’s an empty winter.

As I continue purging things from my life, I find deeper and deeper thoughts and activities to spend my time and energy on. When I see a beautiful Disney watch I’d like, I put it on, but take it right off and hand it back to the salesperson. If I want something in a store, I’ll sometimes carry it around during the whole shopping trip and then give it to the checker as something to put back. By the time I’ve gotten to the cash register, I am done wanting it.

I go to Barnes & Noble and read books now that I want. Or I read the synopsis on the Net and decide then if I want to own it. I should go to the library more.

I think once I’m done watching all the episodes of Clean House, I will have abandoned the voyeuristic, judgmental part of why I watch. And then I can move on to another show.

I wonder what it will be?