Thursday, October 17, 2013


So. Some of the junk we took last week and today were bits that Tara had originally put aside in the hopes that someone would want to buy them. But she's decided, through experience at various Volkswagen shows, that no one wants those parts, and is getting rid of them.

It's like that. I know, since I have the ability to google the phrase 'tetanus burger', that people have occasionally wondered why we are doing this in such a piecemeal manner, bit by bit, instead of say just renting a dumpster (well, dumpsters, plural) and getting rid of it all at once. To be fair, we have in the past rented a dumpster, but that was before the blog. That got rid of building materials my father had saved, old rotten boards, a bunch of homosote (spell check recognizes that so I guess that's not an entirely archaic word), that sort of thing.

There are a lot of reasons, the main one being that people who aren't familiar with hoards simply cannot conceive of the sheer amount of stuff. It says 78 cars on the side there, and I think that's accurate (it is really actually hard to know for sure), but that's not counting all the other stuff, which was, really, probably the bulk of it. It was so much stuff, actually, that when I try to list what was out there in the yard I sort of can't. My brain just shuts down and goes blank. Piles of lumber, milk crate after milk crate of cedar shingles, iron pipes, car parts, piles and piles of car parts, from doors and hoods to engines and transmissions and I don't even know what else, seriously, it's all too much stuff to remember.

But another is cost; it is more affordable, even with the work involved which of course does count, to do it ourselves and get a bit of money for it than to rent something. Though we have rented other things, too, like the wood chipper we used to get rid of a very large pile of brush (because my father saved that sort of thing, too), which was one of the very first things we did to clean the place up, way back in maybe 2001, as well as the occasional Bobcat to level out piles of dirt (which my father also of course saved, because free dirt homg! No, it makes no sense at all. Trust me, I know.)

Another is time. Though we're both self-employed and so have fairly flexible schedules, still, we can't just up and take a chunk of time and devote it to cleaning things. Also, it's hard, emotionally and mentally, because it brings up all the old patterns, and anyone who's the child of a hoarder will understand that intuitively. The rest of you, well you're a bunch of lucky bastards, now aren't you?

It is also very hard to get out of the mindset that doing things is hard. For me personally (and I can't speak for Tara) it's a bit beyond learned helplessness, which I suppose I should define. Learned helplessness is when a child is taught that effort on their part nets no results; in time, they stop trying, because it's not worth it to bother. With me, though, and I imagine with plenty of other children of hoarders, trying to better things (i.e. cleaning) resulted in getting yelled at, i.e. punishment. So it's not just a sort of apathy about cleaning or bettering things (including, of course, because this is how things work in a child's mind, bettering oneself) but a real fear. I have mentioned before that it took me a long time to realize I was actually terrified of cleaning, though of course it wasn't anything I was conscious of. I've gotten past that (bringing it to consciousness of course helped immensely; if you can't see it you can't work on it), but there is still some of that Leave it alone it's dangerous! mentality, at least in my head.

Then there's the idea, very much drilled into us by my father, that things are hopeless anyway, and that 'progress' is invariably five steps forward and four steps back. Everything, according to my father, was just this huge impossible amount of work. Hooking up the water heater (which, again, someone gave him for free) meant he had to re-do all the pipes in the house. And re-doing the pipes meant replacing all the connectors, which he absolutely insisted had to be done using the old, prone to leaking flare fittings, instead of just soldering them together, because what if he wanted to get into the pipes? This is, incidentally, very characteristic of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, which my father almost certainly had, though he was (of course) never officially diagnosed. (Though from what I understand in the new DSM-V things got shuffled around and there is now 'Hoarding Disorder' that is more or less similar to old OCPD.) I think, with both my father and my mother (and though I don't talk about her much here, trust me, she has her own problems) that if something was going nicely it just couldn't be borne. There was a danger, to them, of things going smoothly, or comfortably, one that could only be averted by something going wrong, or being difficult or hard. Which means there was (and is, because my mother is still here) a good deal of self-sabotage. Which we kids learned, too.

(Just a note on my mother: I came home one day in high school to find she had cut all the towels in half. When I asked, she said they were 'too big'. And this in a household with no hot water, where bath time was this huge impossible literally dangerous big deal, as I was carrying pans of near-boiling water up a flight of stairs. My mother's particular dysfunction/madness has always been completely baffling to me. Bafflement, I've found, is a very difficult one to come to terms with. Outright obvious abuse is one thing, I think; it's probably easier to recognize as wrong. But confusion? You can't get a handle on it, even a little.)

So there's all that. Then there's the more properly hoarder attitude (which I do not have) that Things Must Be Saved. Now, Tara is not a hoarder, as I've been to her house plenty (most recently for a Breaking Bad marathon which did weird things to my head, oy) and it's perfectly neat; but when it comes to car parts, well, you know. She wants to go through everything, in case someone might buy it, or in case she can use it herself on one of her project cars. And, in the interest of family harmony, that's probably about all I should say about that, though there is plenty that doesn't make it onto the blog, mostly involving yelling.

But I think, finally, Tara is seeing that there are plenty of things people don't actually want, even if they are restoring an old Volkswagen; things that are, actually, better or more reliable new. Despite most of the new replacement parts being cheap crap, and even though a lot of the old stuff is far more solid, sometimes old just isn't trustworthy. So she's realizing that there are some things no one wants, and no one can use. Yeah, in a lot of ways that resembles churning, or that old hoarder tactic of going through a pile of papers several times and letting a couple more go in each pass, and trust me I know. Oh, oh, I know.


Anonymous said...

I have to confess that "free dirt homg" made me snicker. Because FREEEE DIIIIIIRT. Sometimes you just gotta laugh, you know?

I get a lot of comfort out of blogs by children of hoarders. They help me feel less alone, although the funk in my mother's dysfunction was of a different kind. What can you say about somebody who leaves a broken blender on the counter, instead of fixing or replacing it, because--I am not making this up--"Well, maybe it'll be better in a few weeks?" Somebody who turns down the opportunity to rent something basic but decent and instead moves her family into a squalid dump because the last tenants before it stood empty for five years were people she liked?

The daffy and reality challenged can be amusing to watch. For their dependents . . . not so much. As you know.

TC said...

I understand the desire to clean up without it costing you a fortune. In that regard, you are likely lucky (not that any children of hoarders are lucky) - fortunate might be a better word - that the crap your Dad accumulated actually has scrap value. The other is that there are places near you to take that scrap to sell. On a trip back home this past weekend, I discovered during a conversation with my brother who lives in the same area as my parents that there is no place to sell scrap metal nearby. Big sinking feeling for me as I think about the amount of scrap appliances/metal that my Dad has and that we will have to pay to haul away. And my mother's obsession with magazines can't be monetized either!
I liked your comment about how hoarders make the idea of doing work/making forward progress into something unimaginably difficult. It brought up so many memories of things never started/never finished by my parents. I shall have to write about this myself, I think!

Anonymous said...

This is one of your posts that is more valuable than an hour with the therapist. My father was prone to save "things" because they might have some future use* and because he had wide-ranging interests and tons of future plans.

So not only did I inherit a (thankfully) small house on a (thankfully) small city lot that held an impossibly large amount of stuff, I inherited too much of the mind set, and too wide a range of interests. My spouse sees, and not without some justification, me becoming my father. If it scares her, it terrifies me.

So here's the therapy: I read what you wrote about learned disability and recognized the self-defeating mindset. Now if I can learn to conquer that... I'll have more success in this one future project than Dad had in all his.

Thank you, Tara and Thalia.

*"Child of the Depression," ya know.