This afternoon I watched “Hoarders” on A&E. I had seen the beginning of it a few weeks ago and recorded the episode. It is a show about hoarders who are at the brink of some major crisis because of their hoarding. It isn’t an intervention show really, but documents what they are going through.
In this episode, there was a young family who was going to have their house condemned by the city and their kids possibly taken away if they didn’t clean up the mess. There also was a separate story of an older woman who hoarded food. She couldn’t smell the stench, or associate the flies in her house with the possibility that there was rotting food underneath piles and piles of stuff.
The first thing I took away from this was how the people had a hard time parting with things because of their “value.” The man in the young couple had 5 or more empty fish tanks that he had decided he could part with. But then he changed his mind when he found out they were going to be thrown away. They had value to him. The woman with the food got almost nothing done because she argued about the value of the food that needed to be thrown away. She peeled the top layers off of what seemed to be a completely rotten cabbage and found a very small amount in the middle that might have been edible (if you hadn’t seen the rotten part). Chicken stock that had been expired for more than six months was too valuable to her to throw away.
I also struggle with getting rid of things because of their possible value. Ebay can be a wonderful way to get rid of stuff, but it can also prevent you from getting rid of things right away because you “might” get something for it. Then they sit in your home for even longer. The organizer helping them said something like “Does this item fit into your picture of a happy home?” This struck me. I have a vision for my game room/office. I have a vision for my master bedroom. I even have a vision of what I wish my garage looked like. These things are blocking this vision. They don’t have value; they are sucking the beauty out of our home.
My other reaction to the show was to be thankful that at least I’m not as bad as they are. But as I’ve said before, I could be. If you saw my master bedroom, there may not be rotten cabbage, but there is clutter EVERYWHERE.
The young family’s hallway was covered completely a foot deep in clothes. There are times when my dirty laundry covers our small hallway. I may have a great excuse of having sorted the clothes into piles with the intention of getting it all washed, but after a few days, sometimes after more than a week, that excuse loses its validity. My family has had to walk on top of clothes to get through there. More than a few times.
I may not have a rotten pumpkin in the midst of my kitchen clutter, but I can remember a time when I thought my sink had gotten some permanent funk down in it. My kitchen stunk so badly. I poured baking soda down the sink. I think I even poured bleach down it. The stink was still there and I despaired that something horrible was wrong. Then finally, I washed the dishes that were piled high in the other side of the sink, and the stink was gone. Immediately.
I can’t think, “At least I’m not that bad.” If I let myself think that, I will lose sight of the vast amount of work and habit-building I have left to do. I’m not saying that I can’t be proud of myself, but I have to realize that I have a real problem. It is probably the same problem, but on a different level, that these people had. Going along in life pretending like it isn’t a problem hasn’t worked for me. I have to be honest, and make a change.
I have seen that episode! My husband made a comment to me about all the laundry on the floor! I am really bad with laundry, it covers my bedroom floor. I am great with my daughter's laundry, it goes straight to their baskets, but for some reason ours winds up all over the floor and in piles and mountains we trip over. But, yeah no rotten pumpkins here either!!!!
Hubby and I tried to watch that episode a couple weeks ago on Netflix. I couldn't handle it and had to make him turn it off. I have a very week stomach and just couldn't take it. As we watched the first 15 minutes or so I made a joke or two that wow I at least I am no where near that bad. Well at this point in life I am not but I am also very young and then I got to thinking what if my cluttering got worse as I got older.
Then I found your blog!
I am still overwhelmed by what needs to be done in my home but I am starting very slow and taking it one day at a time.
I just found your blog the other day and I feel like you are my long lost twin! I watch the show "Hoarders". The thing that always gets to me is that they always say I was never a good house keeper than ______ happened. I started to look around my house and see that I am one tragic advent away from being on the show. This thought and now your blog has helped me in getting started. Thank you for being just like me in house work and putting your story out there for me to find.
This is very hard for me but I tried to change my thinking a little. Clinging to something material is being materialistic. Even if it is old I am loving a thing more than a happy ordered home. It doesn’t have to be a new or fancy item just an object being given to much value.
Also I calculate what I have wasted by keeping it too long. If it has caused a clog in my house that has spiraled into a mess that makes me eat out or shop at Target to try to help myself feel better it is wasting my money!!! I can always find another one at a thrift shop if I am so desperate. Any obstacle for someone like us, no matter how small, can cause huge problems.
I saw your ebook for sale on Offbeat Home on Sunday and immediately had to buy it. I’ve been doing the daily tasks you’ve given me and my kitchen looks not-awful anymore! It’s still a long ways before I’ll let anyone in my house, but I can see a little pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel.
Watching Hoarders makes me sick to my stomach. My boyfriend and I both come from hoarding families, but he doesn’t see the problem with it and I’m disgusted by it but a slob at heart so I feel helpless to deal with it alone.
I’m slowly working my way through your archives. I’ll try not to bombard you with too many comments on old posts, but I had a visceral reaction to this one and had to speak up 🙂
Welcome, d! I love comments on old posts! A pinprick of light is exciting!
I don’t think- I’m not that bad-when I watch this show. I think this could so be me.
Kelley G says
The toddler is napping…….so I better go fold my mountain 😉
Confession time I actually googled, “am I a hoarder?” And “how to get rid of the clutter for hoarders” last week. I have come to the conclusion that I am a hoarder but on a low level. The other thing it makes me think is what is this teaching my kids? Reason they don’t pick up their toys or think about picking up their toys, well mommy doesn’t pick up her stuff. I have to be mindful there are six eyes watching me and learning.
This is a sensitive topic for me as my mother had minor hoarding issues, and I find myself have the same tendencies, with the same type of items (“books/magazines aren’t clutter!”). There is actually as assessment tool to gauge a household’s level of organization. I’m not going to link it here because it may be sensitive for others, but if you’re interested, you can search on “NSGCD Clutter Hoarding Scale”. It was actually a relief to me to find out, honestly, that I was a Level I (lowest) although right now some aspects of my house are at Level II. My mother at her lowest point was possibly a Level II.
I’m scared to go check it out, but I think I will!
Oh, and I started reading your blog backwards, just the main posts, but now I’m reading all the comments as well! I can’t believe I’m still in September!
Kristy K. James says
I tried a rummage sale once. I even made a decent amount of money…but only from the sale of a few of the more expensive decorative items. Most everything else was still there…waiting to be gotten rid of. After that, I considered eBay, but didn’t have the time to learn the ins and outs. And so I decided I’d throw away stuff no one would want…and just give away or donate everything else. These days I give most everything to our local Hospice store. They provide free care to people who have come there to die, and the sale of donated items helps cover their expenses. It’s a beautiful, home-like setting, and I just can’t support it enough. In a small way, I even feel like I’m helping. It’s a good feeling. 🙂
I too am a former eBay-er….unfortunately I still have not only a room full of stuff, but also a two story 8×10 space in our shed. I just started at the beginning of your blog today and have been up and down several times….wiping down the kitchen counters, putting in a load of laundry….guilt tripping. The really sad thing is that when my son was small, my house was always clean. When I worked full time, my house was always clean. It wasn’t until I was alone that things fell apart….and I fell into the trap of “it will be there tomorrow”….and it always is! Thank you for your non-judgmental encouragement – it was and is just what I need.
Dana White says
o my gosh, i watch hoarders too! and i totally think, at least im not as bad as that! and ive had sink funk too. one time i even had maggots in my carpet becuz the kids ground strawberries into it. so…. i really am as bad as that. 🙁 Now tho, Ive found you and i have hope. My husband does the dishe every day, and we can walk thru the living room. We even had the grandbaby’s bd party here Mon, and it didnt take 3 weeks of intensive cleaning! yay! my sister and brother come over every week to play cards, on the dining room table!! today i threw away two shirts that i hated/bugged me. My daughter walked by and said Why dont you donate those for the poor naked kids? I got mad at her, but left them in the garbage. Go me!
Laundry use to be a nightmare for me. Especially as the kids got bigger and their clothes got bigger. I solved the laundry pile in two ways. Each kid had a hamper in their bedroom. And I only washed their clothes one day a week. I have a tight laundry room, so I got a rolling laundry sorter (it stacks 3 high). When the kids have to bring their hamper down, they sort into the 3 baskets – darks, colors and whites. Depending on how much they have, I sometimes put the colors and whites together. I do sheets and towels on a separate day. So, I’m never really behind on laundry anymore unless we travel.
Hi, I’m reading your blog (as an excuse not to finally do SOME cleaning before I’m leaving on a nine-day holiday trip TODAY at 15:00 and it’s now 08:30, not packed my bag yet either) and I keep being both impressed and consoled by your honesty and vulnerability. You needn’t worry about what you are teaching your kids, you’re already giving them a great example!
And me too, so now I’m going to see whether I can give myself a clean kitchen to come home to. Thank you Nony <3 <3 <3
I can’t believe your blog started 10 years ago and I’m just now finding it! Someone told me about your podcast, so I’ve been binge listening and then started binge reading your blog from the beginning. Oh how I had wished I could have followed along with your journey from the start. In 2009 though I wasn’t ready. My husband and I had been married 3 years, but it was the last time we had to move for awhile (we already moved 5 times and finally bought a house). Each place became bigger. And yet, we still had a junk room, closets stuffed, counters cluttered. I could never get it under control. My husband started talking to me in 2011 about decluttering, moving in to a tiny house, etc. I thought he was insane. I struggled to let go of things. It wasn’t until we sold our house in 2015 that I experienced peace from my house. We had put all the clutter in storage to show the house. I didn’t know I felt anxious until I felt that peace. So I’ve been trying to declutter the past 4 years. It feels never ending. However, we moved across the country from a 2400 sq ft home 1800 to 1200. I’m still battling overwhelm, cluttered surfaces that can’t stay cleared, basement floor covered with stuff. But we sure have made progress. We have downsized and decluttered greatly. I’m still struggling with letting things go. I’m so sentimental. This post also really resonated with me because I would love to sell things and make money. When we lived in a big city, I was able to sell a lot. In a small town, barely anything has sold. So I’m trying to be generous. I’m trying to think about how someone would feel when they unexpectedly come across something nice that’s free. I’m trying to remember that my memories are not in my things and we will have better memories without all this stuff in the way. I love your daily tasks. I’m not home currently, but when I am, I plan to do it. I’ve tried and it worked before my 3rd was born, but I’ve struggled to keep a clean house these last 6 months. So, I need to start slow. Thank you for being honest. I feel you get me. You get my struggles. Thank you and I can’t wait to learn more from you.
This post really hit home. I am cleaning out my closet, again, & I was putting things back in because they might be worth something. I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years. After reading this I just decided that I’ll donate them & if they are worth anything at least the money will go to a good charity. Thanks for the motivation. I’m enjoying reading your blog, backwards as suggested.