A meaningful quote…

“I’m beginning to realise that I’m either overly sentimental, or am a hoarder who struggles to part with things. In all honesty, I’m probably both.” Fennel Hudson, Fennel’s Journal, No. 2

Found this quote while searching for a quote re memories, sentimental, vintage for my other blog, SwittersB & Exploring. The quote resonated re sentiments and hoarding.

Right now, we (my wife and I) are doing the following: continuing to cull through the excessive stuff we kept that belonged to my Mom and my Aunt. Mentally we are in a good place to get this done. Also, we are dealing with my in laws that are struggling to downsize in late life. There we are up against sentimentality and also the worth of every object, whether broken, junk or not touched in years. The latter project is more challenging as you can imagine. But, for us, there is not the urgency yet. Not our stuff….yet. And, we have other siblings to help and step up to wade through the years of accumulation. Not hoarders but just a lot of stuff that has built up and no energy to sort through due to health reasons and aging.

Sentimentality and memories are powerful stuff don’t you agree?

Deja vu….

Been awhile since I last posted here at Hoarding Woes & You. I hope some of you new visitors have found the back posts of interest in helping you deal with the stresses of hoarding, at whatever level you are dealing with the problem.

Out family is yet again, facing some of the same variables that we dealt with these past several years: elder care, dementia, denial, moderate accumulations of stuff, family dynamics, future health care decisions, cleanups and wondering how the family will deal with the evolving stages.

This time, a probable benefit will be a larger family unit to assist in cleanups, decision-making and elder care.

The same sensibilities are evolving: attempting to not steamroll the elders with impatience, confusing advise or many voices at once. Pride and fears are evident in the elders and it important the family members remind each other to go slow, to listen as much as speak, to share the load of care and to give the elders some sense of ownership and empowerment as life unfolds. So far, this effort at awareness has had its bumps and hurt feelings.

Also, some have worked to the point of exhaustion or illness. Yet, most have jobs, other obligations of family and their own respective health issues. It is a blessing that this time around we, as an extended family unit, have more human potential to maintain a happy, healthy course of action.

I have been ill of late (nothing too serious), but it highlights more than rising off one’s sick bed to help at all costs…no, one is contagious and cannot be around already sick elders and all that could go with infecting the sick elder as well as the caregivers.

Again, we are faced with a wait and see mode regarding any cleanups because the elders are really not of a mind to have their belongings moved let alone sold or donated. So, to keep the peace, we are organizing a bit, suggesting cleanups and yard maintenance, but not pushing true removal/thinning of items. This next effort pales in comparison to our two previous hoarding cleanup, but will still require decisions on downsizing, moving, sales, keepsakes, etc.

Even here, there is a hesitancy to complete DNR paperwork or at least have a discussion. With one member being in moderate dementia the time may have passed to have a meaningful discussion re healthcare expectation and end of life decisions.

So, even having been down this road several times before, we find ourselves looking at some of the same problems again. 

Hoarding’s Love Languages……..

In 1995, Gary Chapman wrote a little gem called The Five Love Languages for couples to analyze, in counseling, what they need in a relationship and what their partner needs to feel loved as well.

Love Languages

So an update…as I have written before, we have been through quite the journey cleaning up two massive hoards. In the end, we sat mentally numb and physically damaged. We decided to move from our home into my Aunt (ours) hoarding home after the renovations. A renovation/cleanup of our home we had been in for 18 years commenced. There was a lot of hard work and downsizing. We moved into the new home with all our stuff and our kid’s (adults that left a lot behind) stuff.

We had retained too much of my Mom’s stuff and too much of my Aunt’s stuff in the new house (garage/basement bedroom and party room). We moved in and it was quickly apparent we needed to truly lean down even further. We didn’t/we couldn’t just yet…a family member said “we want to have our wedding in your backyard in June. Well there really wasn’t a backyard so the next few months were spent creating one and preparing the house for a one day event…everything went into the already full garage.

The wedding came and went, then a large Birthday party on 6/28. I knew the garage was haunting me…the downstairs bedroom/party room haunts my wife…

The above pic was the day of the birthday party. You can see the carport area with the BBQ. It was relatively clean at this point. The next day, was G Day…the garage had to be attacked or I would be haunted by it through the Summer. Plus I could not find any tools.

The next day dawned and I raised the garage door…I had scrupulously hidden the remote door opener to not suffer embarrassment or the need to explain too much stuff.


Above, the garage door was raised. I pulled out the top, teetering layers and still had a barricade with no trail into the garage…it was that evil axiom of ‘no vacuum goes unfilled’ when cleaning up a mess. I had to fill the carport area with stuff from the garage and so it began. Of course, I didn’t move the darn BBQ.

29 better

By late afternoon, I had pushed toward the back (above). A path had been cleared, but truly so much stuff had been pulled out into the carport to create that space.

July 2 Garage

Four days later, the space looked little different. In true hoarding/unfocused cleanup fashion, I had worked out in the garage everyday. The inside temp ran 95 to 102 degrees inside. I moved stuff here and there to make room, but didn’t sort what I moved. I seemed to trip and stumble over the same stuff over and over. Piles cascaded down. Repeatedly, I swore aloud, while thinking this was so ridiculous given what we had been through for the last 5 years.

garage 7-5

This morning, July 5th, the garage is looking better on the right side. However, the previously opened space on the left side (below) has temporarily filled with mostly larger camping items.

garage 7-5 other side

So, to the point, with the above as a lead in….I have been standing out in the oven of a garage for one week and handled hundreds of items. Most of this stuff has been handled multiple times before. Yet, I still have it. I have found myself making repeat decisions on retaining items on criteria we have mentioned before. But, today, I want to list them again in the order of my decision making because a pattern has evolved that speaks to my potential Hoarding Love language”

1) Sentimental Attachment (all keepsakes)

2) Tools (Hand, power, yard) and all duplicates, old and new

3) Containers (all duffles, bags, sacks, cigar boxes, satchels, plastic bins

4) All things fishing, camping..a gazillion duplicates

5) Pieces of something (nuts, bolts, keys, parts to stuff unknown)

Yes, the common ‘I might need it someday’…’I paid good money for that’ have come into play, but overwhelmingly the most frustrating controlling factor has been the sentimental attachment to objects I haven’t laid eyes on in years. In many cases I could not recall how I acquired the item(s)!

So the best I have come up with is I segregated the sentimental stuff to one part of the garage on one set of shelving and made a mental note to seriously sort through this stuff and once and for all get rid of it. Nope, I can’t see myself walking out to the oven of a garage and doing it after posting this. A mental wall currently forbids it. Hmm? Well, at least I see it and am embarrassed to share it here. It’s not as if I have not got full gabage cans full, right now, with stuff I have discarded over the last week. But, not enough to tell you the truth.

The carport pad is still stacked with basically three types of items: fly tying materials (a dozen bins & boxes), hand tools and probable garbage. Beyond that and down the driveway, aways, are things I am giving away.

So this is an update. This garage will never be one of those squeaky clean garages you can dine off the floor types. But, I figure I am 1/3rd done with the interior. Then, I have a shop behind the garage that is full of large, bulky stuff that will fill a vacuum at some point. Fortunately, I have not filled up the patio, yard or surrounding walkways.

It’s going to happen….I have fishing dates to attend to and no weddings or birthdays to fret about.

Hoarding Transitions…

For those of you that have followed along here at Hoarding Woes & You, you have seen the transitions of the house and the immediate surroundings (the driveway, the patio, the carport/garage). I thought I would share a sequence of images of the back yard that transformed from my Aunt’s well maintained, heavily flowered venue to a mess and to what we have created this past few months….

Tillie backyard 1987
My Aunt’s backyard in 1987…representative of the entire back yard…but by now she had started filling the patio and had created the tarped sidewalls.
patio walls
The patio, a lovely spot at one time, was encased in layers of canvas/tarps and then the 20′ x 20′ x 10′ area was completely filled.
BY tarps 2011
The once well maintained backyard was filled with pallets and box upon box of stuff…covered with layer upon layer of blue tarps.


BY tarps 2

BY corner
The cleanup commenced and layers of rotting stuff and dead animals were pulled away.
The backyard was cleared leaving a muddy mess….but this vacuum was filled yet again with debris from cleaning nearby areas…this happened repeatedly…

 by pile

The photos could go on and on over the last few years cleanup, renovations, and now the new back yard…I will just show the end result
BY 5-2015

by 5-2015 c

BY 5-2015 a

Not quite as laden with flowers, but still closer back to the original. The birdbath remains…somewhere there is a photo of me standing there some 55 years ago…but let’s not go there!!! Sorry for the size of some of the photos…Hope those of you that followed along from the beginning or somewhere in between enjoy this sequence. All of the roses were my folks and my Aunt’s. It feels so good to bring a semblance of beauty back to the yard and the house.

precursors to hoarding…


The pitfalls are most evident now on how one can inadvertently become inundated with too much stuff. We have found the following mess/lessons before us, and actually to our great surprise. Given all we have been through the last 5+ years it is a bit frustrating. Hoarding was, heretofore, a mental health issue coupled with buying everything in sight to turn it into a profit (Mom/Aunt). Emotional distress reigned for my Mom and Aunt.

But imagine our surprise, as we moved this past Fall, that there are other pitfalls no less cumbersome. We found that for sentimental reasons we kept wayyyyyyyyy too much stuff that belonged to, as follows: My Dad, my Mom, my Aunt, our three sons, our daughter and our own accumulation over the years. 

This past week, we had one last repository of stuff that had to be moved asap with our old home selling and the sale pending…the attic over the garage. Long forgotten save shoving every extra item up there and apparently forgetting them. Not just old camping equipment or excess old ski gear of children’s toys…no somehow hundreds of other items had become wedged atop the garage. Down came, load after load of keepsakes, treasures and must keeps. Every and I mean every art project for the four kids. Every treasure my teen sons thought important over 20 years ago. And there was the problem. We could not separate with those musty smelling treasures even though we had not laid eyes on them for 15-30+ years. We kept them, boxes of them, and moved them! Sentimentality, Nostalgia, Uncontrollable Impulses ruled.

So now, I am looking at dozens of boxes that have been sorted yet not culled out. There they sit at our new home….if they are stuck away, they will be in the way. The kids don’t want these artistic efforts. Just an example of how but one facet of decision making influences clutter.

This coupled with “I might need it someday”…..”That was expensive”….”I don’t want to mess around with CL or eBay.” (actually I have sold dozens and dozens of items on CL from large furniture pieces down go gym sets and office furniture, plus gobs of free stuff)…

So these traps to be dealt with in the months ahead….I am just sharing the layers of accumulating stuff and how it might have, at one time, impacted the hoarder in your life….and perhaps your life in the near future.

me celebrating garage
Yes, the attic was finally empty after hours of work.

bucky garage
My wife still had a hint of a smile even as the once empty garage filled up again.

bucky empty attic

Perspective & Fatigue

I write less frequently now. We seemed to have climbed the massive peak sometime ago and started the descent. Almost fearful to look back, not wanting to revisit all that came with those two hoarding cleanups and the grueling loss of two dear ladies.

I mean look at this stack of boxes…this was one load of three loads we handled one March morning when we had to empty out my Aunt’s storage locker and bring it to the hoarding house. It was mentally defeating to re-insert stuff into the mix…but we did it and we kicked ass! We did it then…we had to do it now.

We mentally settled into our new home. We felt the tensions start to release. Ah, but wait. We seemed to have forgotten the large elephant (I guess they’re all large aren’t they) standing in the room. We still owned another home that needed to be cleaned out and renovated and sold…the clock was ticking. Mortgage payments continued. The house, whether to be rented or sold had to be cleaned out and fixed up.

Should have been a simple matter compared to what we had been through? But, whether ignored, not immediately recognized or suppressed some bothersome patterns of old re-emerged and might again be of use to you.

We found ourselves dealing with the following repeat offenders: sentimental attachments…’might be worth something’…’I might need it someday’…’I will do it later’…and just honest to God damaged bodies and some suppressed mental fatigue thing that seriously clouds momentum and decisions. Both my wife and I found ourselves at a standstill.

We had set aside way too much of my Mom’s and Aunt’s stuff. Really, unless we rotate items we found ourselves with boxes of stuff stacked at the new home with no place to put the items. Some had collector’s value and some were sentimental keepsakes. They added up.

Our kids had moved out sometime ago. They moved out into student housing or small, shared environments and we still had all the years of accumulation that had not been adequately thinned out along the way. Books, toys, sports, clothing, stuffed animals, drawings, pictures, furniture in grand scale given my Mom (the hoarding Mom) loved to give many presents on the scale with which she accumulated stuff! ‘Here grandson how about a large fire truck…no how about two and you can pretend you are a whole fire department!’

We found we had moved lean into the new home in keeping with the new life style we wanted to see. But somehow those old bugaboos of holding onto stuff had snuck into the mix! Procrastination had entered into the mix and we let down our game face intensity and it up and left us! No energy to stand up and kick ass and get rid of that old house!

So we have mounted the offensive to have the old house on the market one month from now. Carpets have been gutted out. Each room is receiving unmerciful (well not quite that ruthless) scrutiny of what stays and what goes with the ‘goes’ pieces a substantial amount. A trailer is making trips to the dump. We have coordinated  with an estate sale planner to infuse a great deal of the items (good quality items) into a low quantity estate sale (the client would/must be ok with such an intrusion). Renovations have been commenced. We and dear old members of ‘the Team’ (those stalwart family members that suffered through the hoarding cleanups) have offered to help with this final blitz. 

So much of this is mental (timelines, plans, action steps to complete toward large goals, constant assessing Plan A and Plan B, and helping each other to stay on course when one would rather stay home, stay down, get more sleep, just do it later). But there is the undeniable physical component I have often alluded to. If you are out of shape or suffer physical ailments there is an inescapable price to be paid on your body. The Team could equally be called the Bad Back Sciatica Team. 

So to recap…the obvious you are thinking…yes I know, I know: If you are involved in a hoarding cleanup strongly consider what you are bringing into your own home along the way because you will suddenly have that full garage, basement, spare room (all of the above maybe) and getting to it later equals when you are older, tired, ill, battered and cannot fathom sorting through all that stuff. Be careful what you decide to keep. 

stuff heavy-load

Kick your kids in the ass to make decisions of what stays and what goes and be ruthless with them to avoid the decision making pitfalls of sentimentality, practicality, worth etc. A little bit will enter into it, but boxes of stuffed animals or clothing for their children is not practical and most importantly where will it be stored in those years they are off finding themselves and establishing a life???

Well, we are off to the ‘old house’, the Team is waiting on us. Lastly, anyway that you can recruit and retain help will greatly assist you in maintaining momentum and help you over come procrastination, sharing the physical toil and ‘enjoying’ the process.

Yes, we had to stop, turn around and climb partway back up that hill but the reality is our perceptions were blurry. This was a small task compared to everything we have done (size, difficulty) but the ability to see that was difficult when mental fatigue and maybe even just damage has taken hold. Much like life is a journey where you learn as you go or reflect back and see how you have changed along the way. We just wanted to reflect; soon…very soon.

Hoarding Woes Update..

Hello all! I do hope you all had a pleasant holiday season and are facing a positive pathway in the new year!!! Hopefully not a hoarding pathway! But, if you are I wanted to let you know a few things.

I have noticed, of late, that I have daily additions of followers to Hoarding Woes & You. I am most thankful you have found your way here, if even for infrequent searching. I must let you know, I will only post here now on a rare event. Most of my/our activities in life (post hoarding cleanups) are over on SwittersB & Exploring. I welcome your visits over there where I share our passion for photography, fly fishing, travel and writing. It is what we are trying to do to rebuild our lives, our minds and hearts.

single bloom cactus-Mojave-desert-photography-SwittersB

That said, the aftermath of the hoarding cleanups is still there. Unopened boxes, too much of our own stuff now having kept too much of my Mom and Aunt’s treasures. We are faced with what many are faced with after cleaning up a hoarding mess that they didn’t foresee…trapped with too much in the aftermath. And, too tired or distracted to address the problem. Hmm? That’s dangerous because one illness, one protracted crisis leaves us right where our hoarder so often was.

Illness, weakness, a crushed spirit saps resolve from our core. We procrastinate, we turn away from the stuff and just give up. Not that we are there, but we are besieged with physical ailments that bring us to a halt for days on end. Also, the good side of life intervenes with holidays, birthdays, celebrations, hobbies things that were sacrificed before and are now taken in like some healthy elixir. We are trying to make up for lost time and at the same time not quite finishing up what needs to be done.

So, I may or may not delve into this along the way. But, as I have said before, please if you are a new visitor take the time to go back to the beginning and study the past. Not so much about our journey but to gather understanding, patience, courage, strength for what you are facing and have not quite yet grasped the magnitude of it all.

Also, please write and ask questions if you wish. I will always be alert to Hoarding Woes & You…see I saw I had quite a few new followers lately. So, I want to help if I can or just be an ear for your journey. 

Again, best wishes for 2015!!!