Wednesday, September 02, 2015

'How important is it for hoarders to address the psychological underpinnings of their condition before cleaning up?"

The LA Times had an interview with, among other things, author Barry Yourgrau, about his book,
"Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act" while I was working on cleaning up my mom's place.  His response to the title question:
"Addressing the psychological aspect is always essential.  I'd say, as part of any cleaning up.  Hoarding a clutter often become acute after trauma;  the objects are a buffer against the pain.  This was the case for me.  So one needs to peel away of-so-carefully.  And people hang on to emotions as much as objects [and] are unable to face the pain of letting go of either.  This is deep-rooted stuff."

This is just one of many, many similar drawers.

To be fair, my mom lived in the same house for 59 years.  And she knew where things were. If anyone moved things around, she wouldn't any more.  There were enough times when I'd ask for something and she'd tell me exactly where it was.  

Trying to group similar things together.  Here it's scissor like items plus that lamp that didn't fit anywhere else.  

When I'd ask if I could throw some things out, she'd say, "You can do what you want when I'm gone, but not now."  There were a few times when I got her to sit in the garage and go through old boxes with me and allow me to throw some things out.  

I brought this tiny book with me to Seattle to give to my granddaughter, but the pages started to fall out.

This recent trip we managed to get about ten big garbage bags to the thrift shop.  We filled the garbage cans and used a couple of the extra garbage tags I got for $2 each from the city sanitation service. 

Before there was Dilbert . . .

I also got rid of some things through  a website where you can advertise things for free, including things like opened shampoo bottles. 

 This dried fuchsia fell out of a book.

But there was something of the hoarder in my mom.  There were a number of deep seated issues that would have contributed to that.  She lost pretty much everything when she left Germany alone as a 17 year old.  Some family things her brother had gotten out of Germany when he left, but most of the family's possessions never made it out.  Nor did her parents.  While she used that to teach me that things were not important when I was a kid, I suspect that what items from her childhood that did survive the move to the US and eventually California had very great value. 

I'm sure this book had belonged to my step-father.

She also lost a 23 year old son in an accident and the things in his room were always untouchable.

Another factor was that as a child in post-WW I Germany, things were scarce and so lights were never left on if no one was in the room and water wasn't left running while you brushed your teeth and everything that could be recycled somehow was.  Waste was bad.  So throwing things out if they might be used sometime in the future was hard.  This was much more exaggerated in her later years.

So I understand some of those deep seated issues that kept this all around and as we go through it, I don't resent it.  My mom did lots for me and this is the least I can do.  And I get new connections to her and others in the things I'm finding.    

So if clutter is an issue for you, be sure to read the interview.  (He distingishes between cluttering and hoarding.)

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