Week 14 – On a roll…

Another Week, More piles!!

This week I went to my mother’s house and she didn’t have any newspapers for me.  I am not happy about this and now she will owe me 5 bags next week.  (2 for this week, 2 for next week and 1 extra bag since she didn’t have any for me.)  I also told her she would owe me $100 if she didn’t have them since this seemed to work last week.  It’s frustrating because my mom is doing the bare minimum to help clean up her own house.  I thought that since she had done so well some other weeks, she would try to achieve for more.  But instead she is practically giving up and it seems like she is almost trying to defy me.  It is frustrating because I show up and work my butt off every week.  I have a full time job and a busy social schedule outside of all of this, but I still find time to clean up their house, list items on ebay, and keep up with my blog.  Meanwhile, she spends two days a week at my brother’s house and takes my dad to the doctor once or twice a week.  Even though she has a significant amount of time on her hands compared to me, she can’t seem to find ten minutes to pack two bags of newspapers.  I have always known that my mother is horrible at time management, but maybe having too much time on her hands isn’t the best thing after all??

Plastic…

I let it go and head upstairs to the attic to continue digging away.  I was really excited leaving last week.  I felt like I actually accomplished something for once as I could actually see my progress.  Today my goal is to dig a path leading to a door that opens into a room under the eaves of the roof.  I had organized this area years ago so I am excited to have a nice organized space to work with.  I dig my way through and open door.  I am shocked to find the room to be filled to the brim and completely blocked!  I look in the boxes that are blocking the entrance of the doorway and they are filled with items from my grandmother’s house.  I start to dig around the boxes and find lots and lots of presents from when my mother was a teacher.  Now you might think your favorite teacher really wants that pretty wood apple pencil holder or an apple picture frame, but please don’t do it!

A slight roadblock..

I must have uncovered about 4 shopping bags full of gifts, all still in their boxes.  I put these aside for now and asked my mom to choose one item I could sell on ebay.  I started going through everything else in the back room of the attic.  I found a lot of plastic microwave containers that my mother was probably saving for school projects (this was always an excuse when I would try to get her to throw things away.)  Otherwise, I found lots of old clothes from the WHOLE family.  These are clothes from when my brother and I were smaller, clothes from my mom and dad, and my grandmothers and great aunt.  I was able to get a bag out this week for goodwill, so I’m happy with that.  It was a bit hard to get rid of some of my paternal grandmother’s clothes, she has been gone for 16 years and seeing some of the clothes brings back such nice memories of her.  I put them aside for now because I want to hold onto them for a little longer.  I know this isn’t helping the problem, but it’s only 1 or 2 items.

And more plastic!!

Going through the attic I also find an old computer and printer.  Mind you this is the same printer that I urged my mother to get rid of years ago when we bought them a new one.  My mother and I got into one of the biggest arguments about the printer because she seemed to think she would need it again in case the new one broke.  I also was able to throw away styrofoam from two old computer boxes that they hadn’t thrown away.  I have learned from prior weeks that I need to hide certain bags of paper and plastic from my mom so she won’t go through them before I remove them from the house.  I doubt there is anything in the bags that she would want.  It is so frustrating to watch her wasting time going through bags I spent so much time packing, it’s just easier if she doesn’t go through them.  She normally ends up taking out stupid things like coloring books or other papers that add to the mess downstairs.  In reality, she doesn’t need them and she will never use these papers she takes out.  If I take that step out of the process, it saves me time in the long run.  I let her go through the clothes for goodwill before I take them out and I leave.  I feel like I got pretty far, but I can’t believe how packed the back room is.  What a disappointment!!

This week:

No newspapers

1 bag paper

1 bag plastic

1 box Styrofoam

1 computer monitor

1 printer

1 large bag clothes

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Week 13 – Oh hey, there’s a floor under all of this crap!!

Most people would consider the massive piles threatening to collapse and smother me every week as my biggest challenge through all of this.  After spending 3 months conquering pile after pile, I have to say that my mother is most definitely my biggest challenge.  She shocks and amazes me with her ridiculous behavior week after week.  I have to say we are working along better now than we have in the past, but old habits die hard.  She constantly drives me crazy and it’s even more annoying that I feel like HER mother.  For example, last week my mother had no newspapers for me.  Did she have an off week?  Maybe, I get it, some weeks you don’t want to do anything.  But if I don’t constantly harass my mother, she would do even less than she does now.  Even though, I am there every week working my butt off every week.  Do I get a thank you?  Ha, yeah right.  So it got to the point that I had to threaten her to get me four bags this week.  I walk into the house and I’m shocked to find three bags filled in the front hall with my mother diligently working to fill the fourth bag.  In addition, the bags were all filled to the brim with newspapers.  This is a big change because the bags are normally half filled or padded with other sorts of papers.  I don’t understand why my mom can’t find this motivation herself.  I am working so hard every week and I feel like she either is wasting my time by going through everything that I have already done, or she is being lazy and making me do all the work.  Obviously the psychology of hoarding makes it all more complicated than this, but it’s frustrating.

How I feel by the end of the day..

I decided to keep working on the attic this week.  The problem is that even though I got some garbage out last week, there is literally no room to move.  I started going through some boxes near the door so maybe I can actually open it next week instead of thrusting my weight onto the door and forcing myself into the room.  Some of the boxes were filled with old bills and others with old papers from when my mom was a teacher.  I decide to leave most of these things aside for now because it will take forever to sort through them.  As I start going through some of the plastic bags piled up near the door, I find lots of bags of garbage I had thrown out years ago while I was living in the house.  I used to get so upset because my mother would go through EVERYTHING I threw away.  It was a huge invasion of privacy then and it’s even more upsetting that all of it was stuffed away in a back room for years.  I’m just happy I can throw this garbage away once and for all!

At one point my mother tries to open the door but it barely opens because it is now blocked by items I’m trying to sort.  She freaks out and literally tries to break down the door with me sitting behind it.  I guess she thinks I’m trying to hide something.  I tell her to give me a minute as I clear a space so the door can open again.  Among some of the items I had found were coupons from 1989 and 1994 as well as old newspapers.  I’m guessing these were stowed away during a last minute Christmas cleanup.  I open another box as my mother is standing on the other side of me and I’m shocked to find that it is also filled with garbage!  My mother literally grabs one of the bags of garbage from the box and runs away with it.  I am hoping she is going through it downstairs to help me, but I never find the bag.  I am beyond frustrated at this!!  I decided to hide the bags she would want the most and put the other bags in the hallway for her to go through.  As I’m getting more bags ready to bring to my car I realize my mom has disappeared downstairs into the living room.  I walk in to find her sorting through a huge garbage bag filled with plastic items for recycling.  She is literally taking everything out and stacking it next to her.  I get upset and start grabbing things back from her and start putting them back in the bag.  She becomes affixed on an instruction booklet that she claims is for the clock in her bedroom.  Mind you she doesn’t even use her bedroom.  I make a point that she was able to live without the booklet for 10 plus years while it was hidden in the attic.  She wouldn’t have known it even existed if I didn’t take it out.  I tell her she still has a lot to get rid of and ask if the booklet is REALLY worth keeping.  In the end, she lets it go.  My father came into the room after hearing the commotion and helped urge her to stop going through everything as well.  Even after all the commotion with my mother, I feel like I made a dent today and I’m excited because I can see more of the floor in the attic!

As I have mentioned in the past, my parents own a few other properties in addition to their house.  This week I also made a visit to my family’s rental property.  This was bought about 20 years ago because my grandma was getting older and was living alone in the middle of nowhere.  My parents helped her sell that house and bought a two family house so my grandma could live closer to us.  She passed away 6 years ago and the lower rental unit has been sitting vacant ever since.  My mother still hasn’t cleaned out all of my grandmother’s old things and has also filled the house with items from my great aunt.  The house needs some big repairs after being left neglected for more than a few years.  I am here today because I had stopped by the day before to see how the house is doing and noticed a window broken on the garage door.  In addition the back door to our vacant rental unit was ajar.  This made me completely nervous and I was so happy my boyfriend was there to go through the house with me.  I don’t know how long the door has been open for or who has been going through the house, but I don’t think anything is missing.

The fact that people are going through this house makes it more imminent to get the house repaired and rented immediately.  I had a friend meet me there today to give me an estimate for new siding for the garage and new windows for the house (which have rotting sills and need to be replaced.)  The yard needs a lot of work and grandmother’s apartment needs a new kitchen.  Of course my mother wants to put next to no money into the place though they have the potential to make most of the money back within a year or two.  I am so frustrated with this situation and with my mother in general at this point.  I need to be careful or I am going to get burnt out very quickly.

This week

4 bags of newspapers from mom (2 from last week)

2 bags old coupons

1 bag old newspapers

1 large bag papers

1 large bag plastic

1 bag garbage

1 dustbuster

Misc. tins

Week 12 – Pickled and back to the grind

Pickles and relish and pickles, oh my!!

I’m back!!  After picking over 100 cucumbers from the garden and subsequently pickling 14 jars of pickles and 9 jars of relish, I think the cucumbers are almost gone.  I swear if I see another cucumber or pickle, I may scream.  Even though, I arrived at my parents house on Monday ready to go..  Unfortunately, my mother was ready for ME to go as soon as I walked in the door. Seeing I didn’t come by the house last week, I was hoping there would be at least two bags of newspapers waiting for me.  And as I have said before, there is always an excuse.  This week it was the fact that she had just arrived home from babysitting for my brother’s kids.  Yes, she does go twice a week and the kids are exhausting, but she definitely can find time to pack the newspapers throughout the week.  I said fine, but stated that she would owe me 4 bags the next week.  In addition, they would have to be filled with ALL newspaper (she likes to pad the bags with cardboard and other papers.)  My mother responded “FINE!!”  She had a defiant look on her face.  I responded “really??  really??  you are going to get me 4 bags of newspapers by next week?”  She responded “YES!  I will.”  Hmmm.. I don’t really trust my mom, but I know one thing she loves more than newspapers, money.  I told her that if she doesn’t get me the 4 bags of newspapers by next week, she would owe me $100.  Once again, she repeats “FINE!”  I still don’t believe her so I decide to make her pinky swear.  Mind you, this is the first time I have ever had to pinky swear my mother, but she was a kindergarten teacher, so she knows the power of a pinky swear.  Right??  We shall see how this works out..

After already getting down and dirty negotiating with my mother, I decided I didn’t want to get my hands dirty as well.  I avoided the garage and back patio and headed to the spare bedroom (aka. the attic.)  A few weeks ago I had mentioned to my mother that I sold a video set we got for free on ebay.  She also had a copy that I was hoping to sell.  I had seen it one of the previous times I was in the house, but it has now disappeared.  I’m a bit annoyed that my mother may have moved it, but there is more work to be done.  I ended up finding more items from my grandmother and great aunts houses.  I’m not even touching these boxes since I still have a pile of stuff in my own house to get rid of.  While standing in the attic, I am overwhelmed by piles teetering over me.  It’s hard to sort anything because I’m forced to put the items I’m sorting onto other piles.  I finally decide to clear off a dresser that has lots of random oddities piled on top from over the years.  Records, clothes, baby bottles, papers..  You name it!  I even found a book of real estate listings from the 1980’s that had my current apartment listed.

The Attic – View straight ahead

After clearing a small amount of space, I attempt to start organizing.  But it is very difficult as I am literally working with a 4×4 foot area directly behind the door.  I decided to work on getting as much garbage out as possible so I could have more room to work with next time I go in there.  As I am exiting the room, I am excited to find a few bags of coupons piled outside the door. These are easy to throw away but as I grab the plastic bags, I notice one of them is actually filled with old photos from my grandmother.  For someone who values the past so much, it’s ridiculous that my mother stores pictures and old coupons in the same manner.

The Attic – View to the right

In addition to my mother’s items, I have been coming across some of my dad’s boxes.  These are normally filled with the most random items ever.  Magazines, weird lists, pencils, pens, tools, shells, rocks, pieces of model cars, you name it.  You think I’m kidding, but these were all items found in one box!  It seems he was also very involved in the finances of his volleyball league as I found lots of checkbooks from almost 30 years ago!  I have to mention that while I was going through everything, my mother kept popping in to talk to me.  I’m guessing this was more to see what I was taking out of the house than the fact that she had pressing things she just HAD to tell me.  I made sure to run the bags she would be most interested in out of the house first and leave the other bags for her to survey.

The Attic – View to the left

Total for this week:
3 Bags coupons

1 bag paper

1 bag plastic

2 bags magazines

1 box egg cartons (containing about 20 egg cartons)

I didn’t think hoarding vegetables was possible..

So apologies for the delay in posting but I have literally been over my head in cucumbers.  To my surprise, I found that my mother likes to hoard vegetables as well..  The bigger ones are probably the size of my forearm!!

Holy Cucumbers!! 33 to be exact..

These are from her garden, but she obviously let some sit for a bit longer than necessary!!  I’m guessing she doesn’t like getting rid of vegetables either??  I have repeatedly asked her to pick them sooner because the smaller ones are easier to pickle, but she waits for me to take them out (as with everything else in her house.)  So far I have made cucumber salsa, cucumber salad, cucumber relish, bread and butter pickles, spicy garlic dill refrigerator pickles, and dill refrigerator pickles.  I attempted to can some of them so we can have pickles all year long.  I hope it worked!  I picked 33 cucumbers last week and went back yesterday and picked 19 more (much smaller ones though.)  So unfortunately I have been a bit preoccupied!!  I am a pickle fanatic, but this might be too many for even me.  Hopefully I will be back to normal by the end of the week and be able to get back to my normal posts 🙂

Week 11 – We’re heading outdoors!!

The back patio AFTER I cleaned it up a bit this week..

Before I headed back to work in the house, I had to get some dirt off the compost pile so I could plant some flowers on my balcony this weekend.  I was more than ready to go back to work in the garage, but the back patio caught my eye.  As soon as I walked by the porch I ran over, grabbing a bunch of planing trays for recycling.  My mother started to freak out and took the trays out of my hands.  She claimed that they weren’t clean yet, so I couldn’t take them for recycling.  I argued back and forth with her for a while and tried to start cleaning them myself.  In the end, it wasn’t worth the fight.  I didn’t want to have the wet plant trays in my car and there was so much junk everywhere I looked.  Even without the plant trays, I had enough items to fill my car tenfold.  As I started to uncover more and more layers, I couldn’t believe what was back there.  Multiple filing cabinets, old soccer balls, empty mulch bags, propane tanks, paper, the list goes on and on.  Every time I picked up something there was more of a mess underneath it.  I guess there was no more room inside the house??

A filing cabinet and other items that have been left outside for years

Even though I removed a car full of stuff, there is still a lot back there including a lawnmower, another filing cabinet, wires, and kids toys that my parents either found on the side of the road or at the recycling center.  I’m guessing the toys were supposed to go to the grandchildren, but haven’t made it there yet!  I tried to take the kids toys for Goodwill, but those weren’t clean yet either.  Right.  Enough of that!  Going back inside the house, my mother only had one bag of newspapers filled.  Actually, I’m being nice when I say it was actually filled.  I walked over to a pile of coupons that were obviously expired and again my mother freaked out because she wanted to look at the ads for items you can order by mail.  Mind you, my mother has NEVER ordered anything from any one of these ads EVER.  She quickly produced two more piles of papers to add to the bag of newspapers.  So amazing that she can jump out with more papers out of thin air, but she couldn’t fill the bag for me ten minutes earlier.  I grabbed some cardboard food boxes(cereal/microwave food/snack boxes) from around the room to fill another grocery bag up.  I also added some magazines from the floor when she wasn’t looking.  Overall, she was NOT happy!  In the end I was able to push her out of her comfort zone and help her get rid of some things she didn’t want to part with in the first place.  Success!!

Old balls anyone?

This week:

1 bag of newspapers

1 bag of other cardboard

5 assorted soccer balls

15 empty mulch bags

1 filing cabinet

1 planting trough

plastic planting trays

1 bag garbage

Assorted plastic

2 small propane tanks

Week 10 – What am I going to do with all of this sh!t?!?!

My challenge for this week: The garage. This picture was taken after I have removed 16 bags of newspapers in the past few weeks!!

I woke up this week and took a good look around my own house.  I became angry with myself as I realized that I have brought home more of the hoard than I’m comfortable with.  I have sorted through everything that has come into my house, but I really need to start getting rid of things.  I don’t want to bring anything back to my parents house whatsoever, even though I’m going to have to at some point.  We have inherited some items that we would like to keep, but my little house doesn’t have the storage space for any of it.  In the mean time, I would like to get rid of some of the items my mom has agreed to part with.  Therefore, I have joined the world of selling on Ebay!!  I figured I would begin with an easy item so I sold a video I received for free when I went to see a talk show being taped.  I didn’t pay for it, so I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t make too much money.  I don’t know if you have ever tried to sell anything on Ebay, but these stupid auctions take forever.  A week seriously feels like a year!!  I “patiently” eyed my Ebay listing about 5 times a day (at least) hoping someone would bid on it.  It sold the first time around and I actually earned a good amount of money after all the fees.  This might be a good thing after all because I can also get rid of junk around my own home!!

Upon entering my parents house, I decided to head to the garage.  It looks like they threw a lot of garbage in here, so I should be able to get rid of everything immediately.  Nothing to go into my own house!  Upon entering the garage, I immediately noticed a bag or two that were covered in urine.  I also saw some nuts and animal droppings near a box of cracker jacks that was opened and eaten.  I alerted my mother to this and she didn’t seem bothered by it at all.  I on the other hand am grossed out and really bothered by this.  I keep picturing a rabid animal jumping out at me every time I move a bag.   I am also convinced I will find a dead animal sooner or later.  I cleared out some garbage and a bunch of newspapers and it actually looks like I’m finally making a dent!

Before leaving I grabbed a bunch of old shampoos, lotions, and fragrances from my bathroom.  It has been 5 years since I lived here, some of these items might still be good and it will save me a trip to the drugstore!  Yes, this does count as bringing things into my house but I’m going to use anything that is still good and recycle the rest.  I look at it as saving money, so it’s OK (and it was mine in the first place.)  My mother was definitely watching over me this week, but I don’t think she’s too worried about anything from the garage.  I asked if she wanted to donate any towels to the veterinary hospital as I eyed a pile of about 20 towels neatly stacked in my bathroom closet.  She said she had to see which ones my dad uses before I could take any.  There is always an excuse!!  Oh well, I tried!

Tally this week:

10 Bags of newspapers from garage

2 Bags of newspapers from mom

4 bags of garbage

So how does a hoarder’s brain work?

I’ve attached an article I thought all of you might find interesting.  It details a study about hoarders and their brain functions when asked to keep or throw away their junk mail vs. the junk mail of other people.  I don’t think this study is particularly shocking seeing my mother’s reaction when I sort through her junk mail.  By her reaction I mean acting completely ridiculous as if I wanted to throw away all of her plates and insist she eat on the floor from now on.  No, I’m not even exaggerating, she really freaks out over junk mail.  They have never had cable TV and don’t plan on getting it, but opening, reading, and filing the cable TV junk mail is completely necessary.  I do feel this study is promising because it may help therapists in treating hoarding patients more effectively in the future.  I really want to bring Dr. Tolin over by their house to try a trial study NOW!!