Monday, June 14, 2010

So Let's See

I suppose I should start off with some kind of overview of things, here. My father was a compulsive hoarder, born in 1923 and a child for the Great Depression. I say 'was', because, even though he is still alive, several years ago he had a stroke and now lives in a nursing home. He doesn't remember much. Perhaps that is just as well; he'd kill us if he could understand what we're doing to his 'stuff.'

My sister and I were born to either side of 1970; my father had, I think, already begun the hoarding before we were born. Although I, at least, am only just beginning to call it that, and recognize it as such: we just thought he was weird, or impossible, or hyper-controlling, or inscrutable or something. Nothing he did made any sense to me at all until I read about OCPD, Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder.

Unlike many hoarders' houses the inside of ours was mostly okay. I mean, sure, he piled newspapers and magazines everywhere, took over all the closets and stuffed them full to bursting with new shirts with the tags still on them bought for 19¢ at Building #19, and kept talking about building more bookcases to put his ever-growing collection of cheapo books in (some of which were ones libraries had thrown away); but, for the most part, the house was livable. Well, perhaps I should put that in quotes, 'livable'. Since plumbing, um, irregularities were de rigueur growing up. But that's a whole 'nother post.

I really think the inside of the house only stayed somewhat okay because our mother fought him tooth and nail to keep it 'livable'. There was a lot of screaming going on in here growing up. I shudder to think how bad he would have let it get if left to his own.

But the yard. Yikes.

He was a mechanic, you see, who worked on the type of car I of course hate most in the world now: air-cooled Volkswagens. Once upon a time he had been employed by a dealership, but somewhere in there (and I'm not sure what led to it; there are stories of him being fired from the dealership on Christmas Eve) he decided he was going to do it from his own garage.

And that is why he began, or that is all the excuse he needed to begin, to collect cars. Volkswagens mainly, of course, but sometimes that didn't matter; if cousin so-and-so was done with his crappy Datsun pickup truck, why that might be useful, right? And not just cars, either, but car parts--engines, transmissions, tires, hoods, doors, seats, axles, anything and everything car related he saved. And when he ran out of space in the garage, he built a shop. When he ran out of space in the shop and it was getting difficult to work, he started another outbuilding. And so then of course he also saved building materials--scraps of plywood, boards salvaged from other buildings, moulding, doors, windows, rolls of linoleum, cedar shingles, tin cans full of nails.

There was more, of course. But Rage is tapping on my shoulder, so I'll stop there.

He's been in that nursing home for four years now; and though we've been cleaning it all up, it's still slow going. For one thing, one does not clean up forty years worth of crap overnight. For another, it is very heavy emotional work which brings up all kinds of nasty memories and sets all kinds of negative 'tape loops' playing in the head.

We have done quite a lot already, understand. At one point I believe (and Tara would know better than I) there were eighty-eight cars on the property. It is down to twenty-five now. We have cleared out space and reclaimed land, had innumerable tires taken away, brought carload after carload of iron to the scrap yard, filled bags and bags and bags of the fifty-five gallon heavy-duty trash bags, and even rented (and filled) a dumpster once: and there is still more. Just the other day Tara moved a pile of hoods aside and discovered several more stacks of tires. We brought another twenty-four of the things to a tire place last week and by today's count there are still at least sixty left.

So then, this blog. I have made it a goal to get the yard clean by the end of the year, before 2011 rolls in. And this blog will be a way to keep track of it all and to help us see the progress we have, and will, make. Expect lots of before and after shots.

Also it will serve as a place to vent our homicidal impulses, if for instance we uncover yet another fucking milk crate full of cedar shingles and carpenter ants. Consider it a service to society.


Donna said...

Good luck and continued progress to you Thalia and Tara on this huge project!

Hope you got scrap metal $ at least for all those cars you've gotten rid of already.

Look forward to reading more about your progress and also, how you handle any obstacles that come your way. Will be taking on this project with my sisters too one day at a couple locations and need to learn as much as possible from those who have lived it.

Hope you won't be too exhausted to update!
Good luck,

Thalia said...

Thank you for the well wishes, Donna, and good luck to you too!

The biggest obstacle was frankly Dad. Now that he isn't here to stop us or try to slow us down, I find the biggest obstacle (for me, and I can't speak for Tara) is the patterns set up in my own head, the tendency to want to get bogged down by the details of it all.

Anonymous said...

My daughter discovered your site a while back and recommended I read it.

She and I are currently living with another daughter and her husband who both have Asperger's Syndrome. They don't have the ability to organize. In addition, the husband grew up in this home and the father was a hoarder. They left much of it when the kids were married and they moved out.

It has taken us four years, many hours of labor and hundreds of dollars to begin to get things under control in a house that has been around nearkt 90 years. We are still working on it. There is one/quarter of the basement left and I ran out of emotional and physical "steam" for several months. Discovering your site was like a breath of fresh air to know that this problem is not exclusive to us and we will make it through.

I can identify with dealing with a parent. My father is the same way but he is still least he rents a storage to put it all in!

Having lived with a beloved grandmother with the same problem, I saw how junk can take over your life and literally kill you. It is literally a generous and loving kindness to loved ones to not keep unnecessary stuff!

Best wishes on the completion. I look foward to reading your continuing blog. I love the fitting!