Hoarding by Degrees: If you or your loved ones are attempting to clean up a hoarding mess, you probably don’t care there are scales or attempts at definitions to define levels of the mess. When I started making attempts at my mom’s enormous mess (I wish I had taken pictures of her home. I took very few. It was too hard to take a pic that gave the true nature of the height/depth/smell of the situation….way worse than my aunt’s home/yard) I was viewing the effort as muscle vs. so many garbage bags into the drop box. Just on and on, step after step. I also saw it as my daunting effort to convince my mom to let me do the clean up. I used rudimentary reasoning to stress the need to clean up: smells, rodents, health, neighbors, sense of order. The rodents and smells would kind of work to get the ball rolling but this shortly ended when the process of selecting what was headed for the drop box commenced.
As you always see on the TV shows, the process of negotiations soon brought things to a halt. The shows have a camera rolling. I often wonder what motivating factor the camera is for the hoarder; a force to comply, to go along. Yes, more often than not they balk and dig their heels into their stuff (catchy use of words) but didn’t have a camera or crew or team, save a few family members roped into temporary duty. In the end, for the yard, I bullied/threatened and ‘won’. I was hurtful and it was awkward. It was particularly hurtful, not just for my mom, but for my family…as I would go to work (the normal/real job), leaving them with my mom. They would suffer the wrath of my mom. What she held back saying to me, she unleashed upon them like some biblical storm cloud.
In the end, (with her in the home) I did not make it into her home. No amount of apologies, begging, reasoning, shame or meaningful conversations that elicited her guilt, frustrations, shame opened the doors to that house. In a way that was ok. When the time was evident that she was at the end of the cancer treatment process, we brought her into our home for the last of her life.
The clean up was saved for after her life passed. No scales or levels of hoarding…go ahead consider it pegged at the highest levels…were necessary. It was a massive mess and we are still cleaning without having her stand amidst the mess and thwart the decision-making. Thank goodness for that.
Lastly, I have again, for now, lucked out with my aunt’s mess. She has only temporarily participated in the decision making for her cleanup. I have not had to endure the decision making drag that bring operations to a halt or painful crawl. So, I am not an expert at the hoarding cleanup/negotiations process as some. I have had it in my life. My schtick is more what it is like to care for the hoarder amidst the mess. To visit with them, when no one else can enter the home. To slowly assist in moving things about for safety. Not to remove anything, but just move it. My aunt, giving me permission to start outside was an enormous green light. It has now slowed down and a yellow light (caution) is now in effect. With the effort to get her back into her home on hold and the likelihood of that doubtful, I have slowed the cleanup/re-organization efforts.
Momentum in these efforts is tricky. It is very hard to balance life’s demands while taking on a hoarding mess. It is hard to maintain your focus and drive. It is especially hard to keep others assisting equally motivated. I have been fortunate. But, nonetheless, it (the team’s energy levels/commitments) rarely have been in synch. (Self Assessment Test for Hoarding)
Maybe not for you, but for me, I dream about hoarding cleanup. I can smell it. I see it. I feel the anxiety of what remains to be done. Some sort of getting even with me mom?