Hoarding Woes: How? Why?

Hoarding: We tend to know the how’s if we periodically, at least, watch. The why’s are offered up by experts, rarely by the hoarder. I didn’t grow up in a hoarding home. My mom started with the seemingly tame concept of buying a little this and that at garage sales back in the 60’s. I even drove her as she didn’t have a driver’s license. Many women didn’t back then. Later, my mom decided to have her own garage sale to rid the family of clutter. And, soon a different concept evolved: Going to garage sales and buying cheap and then staging frequent garage sales to turn a profit

My dad was ok with this as my mom kept it manageable. The sales happened and nice little nest eggs came along that helped make ends meet. My dad worked two jobs until he died and my mom ran frequent garage sales. Success generated more acquisitions and more sales and more money and well on and on it went. My aunt followed suit across town. Her husband was dead so she didn’t have to sweat a critique of her acquisitions or storage of stuff. My mom did. My dad did his best and I was aware of the banter of ‘when are you going to move this stuff out?’…meaning when is the next sale.

Somewhere along the way, the stuff trickled in and the sales slowed. Still a business venture of sorts. Then my dad died.

Heartbroken, lost, my mom lost her momentum at her home and turned her energies to a different staging location for sales….my aunt’s house or driveway…a long driveway…a ten year staging of an on-going garage sale. My mom continued to acquire and store at her own house. It would be transferred as space came available at her sisters….still about making money…………but, an invisible change took place.

Invisible because my mom cut us all off from coming into her ‘messy’ home and because we did not know that she also bought to ease her grief. Buying to feel good increased. The purchases felt good. Once home the bag was stacked atop thousands of other plastic bags (I detest damn plastic bags) and never opened again.

The continued buying went on and on everyday. Her space shrunk in the home to the often seen single chair (for my aunt it is half of a couch) surrounded by mounds upon mounds of stuff. There was one way in and out of the home. A trail up and down the basement stairs from the side door to the chair, lamp, radio, blankets, heating pad. When morning light shone through a side door window my mom escaped to the outside world to do what? What else was she programmed to do anymore. 

While cleaning up the basement this year, I came upon an old tape recorder. It was plugged into an over burdened outlet. A cassette tape was inside. My dad use to record this and that as he read, or made verbal notes about a subject matter. Never having made it past 4th grade he loved to read and make notes and record and consider life. So, I wondered if the tape was one of his old ‘note taking’ tapes for a meeting or such. 

No. I cannot describe it to do it justice. It was my mom. Talking, weeping. To her departed husband. Lonely. Afraid. Buried in self recriminations and begging for help. Guidance. I don’t know when she recorded her angst. The tape recorder was a million miles below piles of crap. She had reached out to his spirit and then buried even that desperate plea. Too ashamed, too angry, no one else was admitted down that pathway into the basement. Certainly, the plea was not answered….or the answer not heard.

A pathway of stuff. Stairs rarely visible. Falls likely. Crawling up or down probable. Demeaning. Cruel. Sickness. Mental collapse. Shame. Anger.

What was my mom’s upbringing? Born 1923. Ah…’that explains it….the Depression’ Really? One of five daughters to a well off, manipulative, abusive, controlling, drunken father. All the girls gone early. All equally angry until they died or as the two remaining are today….on edge and in some sort of denial. No psycho babble from me. I grew up with my mom. I felt the anger. Often. And until the last breath she took, she was troubled and angry. The rage I feel toward abusive parents, particularly fathers is palpable. I knew where every smack, slap, hit, cuff, remark came from. No doubt in my mind.

The depression? Trying to have more like their rich sister to the South? Competition between sisters here? I don’t know.

My negotiations with my mom were lengthy and went on with all the manipulative psycho babble I could muster to manipulate. I felt like I was a priest exorcising some demon and the wrath of that demon was deep inside my mom and the venom spewed out with such ferocity I turned away. I turned away. Negotiations, compromise, months of cleanup outside…I simply ran out of mental steam to keep her on track.

How nice it would have been in those final months of my mom’s life to have had the mess gone and the focus only on her departure. A fitting conclusion.

No, we have spent a year and a half, since her death, reliving her tragedy with every stinking bag hoisted over the side of a drop box. I pray to God Almighty that the effort fades to some faint nightmarish place in a compartmentalized box in my soul. I want her last months with us the only lasting memory to include her final breath. And, well her awesome potato salad (write prized family recipes down!)


My aunt? Seemingly much the same. Dare I say greedily seeking the bargain and up priced sale? Seemingly heartbroken too. Lost. A recluse. Closing everyone out of her life, her house, her mind save my mom and her departed husband. Like a little elf or gnome seeking her objects and fondling them….my aunt loves stuff. Pure and simple. She loves stuff and the money it can make. For her the inventory backed up in the warehouse is mind boggling. She would have been a hell of a business woman….in a way she was.

Now her mess awaits. Partly addressed this Summer, it sits languishing now….waiting. It is raining hard outside. It is a melancholy night.  


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